A Return, and a Beginning

When I was an undergrad and both this blog and I were quite a bit younger, one of my professors asked me if I wasn’t nervous about putting myself out there in such a vulnerable way for the whole world to see. The world seemed younger then, not just me or this blog.

I answered with all the naïveté of a young person, declaiming that I wanted to live authentically and let the chips fall as they may. My professor just shrugged his shoulders, in the way that can infuriate the young who vow that they will always be authentic, always be genuine, unlike you old people who are afraid to be real. I understand the old people now. I’ve seen the mobs.

So perhaps this is why I haven’t written on here in a long time. I’ve become an inveterate journaler, and while that audience is always harsh and often unforgiving, the effects are contained. Nobody is going to come at me for a half-formed thought or an inconsiderate comment that reveals the fact that I am a work in progress. There’s a freedom in that, but also stagnation. Nobody truly writes only for themselves, not really. We want to convince others to see the world as we do. We want to convert them, however brutish our culture makes that seem.

And my thoughts, such as they are, tend towards the largest, most macro levels; towards the biggest questions about humanity and god and culture and religion and violence and especially how on earth we’re all supposed to learn to live with each other before we annihilate each other. The old adage about not talking about religion or politics at the dinner table is wisely extended to the internet by people wanting to avoid controversy. But it appears that my days of such wisdom are behind me, however much anxiety the mere possibility of conflict brings me. And I guess that it’s no surprise that my aversion to strife has propelled me into exploring its causes.

My most recent and important teacher in this journey is the recently deceased French thinker René Girard. His mimetic theory explains the shape and texture of humanity to me in all of its beauty and ugliness in a way that is both powerful and, to use and old-fashioned concept, true. It does not paint a picture of us as we wish we were, but as we are. It is wholly unfashionable and out of step with its time, as all great theories have always been, which makes it all the more fitting that Girard’s friend and colleague, Michel Serres, named Girard the “Charles Darwin of the human sciences” upon his induction into the 50 immortals of L’academie francaise in 2005.

And now I’m tempted to keep writing about Girard and what I’ve learned from him, so that will hopefully goad me into writing more than this anxiously self-indulgent writing about writing.

Thus Ends the Streak

If you’ve been reading here regularly, I’ve been writing a post per day since July 18th of this year, save my company meetup in October. This represents streaks of 86 and 50 days, good for 136 posts in 144 days.

But I’m giving up on posting every day, now. The point was never to post every day; the point was to write regularly, because I can’t be a writer unless I write. The streak is over for two reasons.

Firstly, it just started to feel too pressure-filled. I wasn’t enjoying it. If something is going to fill your time, you should enjoy it some of the time.

Secondly, the requirement to post every day had moved me towards link-blogging rather than, well, writing. I don’t have enough psychic space every day to write an essay, but that’s still what interests me.

I’m going to keep writing, but probably less frequently, and maybe not always here, either. Thanks for joining me in this experiment.

The Wolf at the Door

Climate change is an emergency, but it’s a slow one. The amount of carbon we’ve released—and continue to release—into the atmosphere is wreaking untold changes on our planet. And yet years of prophesied doom has given the warnings a bit of a boy-who-cried wolf aspect. We’re supposed to be in danger, but things seem pretty normal, right?

And then I saw the unprecedented smog in Beijing, and I felt that the sci-fi dystopias of the distant future had suddenly arrived now. From the BBC:

Schools in Beijing are closed and outdoor construction halted after the Chinese capital was issued with its first ever pollution “red alert”.

At 07:00 local time on Tuesday, the air pollution monitor operated by the US Embassy in Beijing reported that the intensity of the poisonous, tiny particles of PM 2.5 was at 291.

The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms per cubic metre to be a safe level.

The photos could be in Blade Runner. The wolf isn’t at the door, it’s in the house, and we’re hoping it will go away if we keep our eyes screwed tight.

All About ISIS

I’m pretty hesitant to link to anything about ISIS-related, since anything that perpetuates fear plays right into their hands, and into the hands of those who would exploit that fear to get us to agree to all kinds of curtailments of our rights and freedoms in the name of safety.

But, one antidote to fear is knoledge, and I found Vox’s 18 Things about ISIS you need to know quite helpful in that regard. They’re weak, and they’re losing ground.

The Source of Violence

There’s been a lot of violence in the world lately, but most of it hasn’t been in Paris or Colorado Springs or San Bernadino. No group is better at inflicting violence than militaries, since that’s what they’re there for. The best possible outcome of a standing army is the threat of violence, but what good is that threat without exercising it on occasion?

The Dalai Lama has pretty insightful thoughts on the reality of war:

Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous – an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering.

Strong words that I completely agree with. This bit on the military threat to democracy is also cutting:

There are people with destructive intentions in every society, and the temptation to gain command over an organisation capable of fulfilling their desires can become overwhelming. But no matter how malevolent or evil are the many murderous dictators who can currently oppress their nations and cause international problems, it is obvious that they cannot harm others or destroy countless human lives if they don’t have a military organisation accepted and condoned by society. As long as there are powerful armies there will always be danger of dictatorship. If we really believe dictatorship to be a despicable and destructive form of government, then we must recognize that the existence of a powerful military establishment is one of its main causes.