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.