Take heart, for even as the scorching sun and suffocating humidity crescendo to a hellish Summerdämmerung, the first red maple leaves are here to promise us an imminent end to the sweltering misery.
I got the half-price deal on Prime Day for a 23andMe kit, and my results came in this week:
Based on family lore, I would have expected to find myself being primarily German and Croatian, but it turns out I’m mostly Swiss, Polish, and Balkan, with some German, Hungarian, Ukrainian, and British (!) spice thrown in.
Apparently the mysterious British ancestor was part of the family within the last two hundred years, which makes it especially interesting. My paternal side of the family were Swiss Anabaptists, who became Amish and Brethren on this side of the ocean, so perhaps some of them stopped in England en route to the New World long enough to leave some genetic roots behind. Or maybe some New England Puritan came down to Pennsylvania and joined the family? It’s not likely that I’ll find out, but it’s fun to speculate. Fascinating stuff. Grab yourself a kit when they go on sale again for Black Friday.
When left to my devices, I choose to be unobtrusive. I choose gray. It suits my diffidence and soothes my extroversion. It is the color, rather than the sound, of silence. It sits with monkish, folded hands and asks for nothing. It never shouts. It never pushes. As the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres said, “Better gray than garishness.”
Gray is the dark end of the light. The light end of the dark. Unsettling, perhaps, but full of possibility. Just think how beautiful we all look in the gloaming. It’s liminal, the color of our own potential to become.
A wonderful poetic tribute to an unappreciated color. If only she’d chosen the correct spelling.
The sale was going to start at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, but numbered tickets were going to be handed out starting at 6:30. We drove up on Friday and arrived a little before 3:00 p.m. to put a couple of boxes in line to hold our place until the next morning, then we went to visit the arboretum and take a leisurely stroll around campus.
We arrived back at the arena the next morning around 6:00 and made a little small talk with some of the other members of our itinerant biblio-tribe, then collected our numbers. Most people got back in their cars to drive into town for breakfast, but as we’ve done for the last couple years, we used the opportunity to grab a prime parking spot. It was only two miles down to College Corner, and we’re always up for a good walk. We took off at a brisk pace, wanting to have plenty of time to eat and get back in line.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Maybe not by most people’s standards — there had been a torrential thunderstorm around midnight, and the skies were still slate-grey, though merely overcast. No threat of further rain. Temperatures in the low 50s, with a slight breeze. For me, there couldn’t be more gorgeous weather for a walk. It made my heart sing. And campus walking, especially early on a weekend morning after graduation, is one of our favorite things to do. It’s a pleasant feeling of kenopsia to walk past such stately buildings and perfectly manicured lawns with hardly any sign of human activity anywhere.
Shortly after we had crossed the street and passed the stadium, the Lady said, jokingly, “We’re being followed.” She spoke truly, for there was an older couple not far behind us. I’d been vaguely aware of them back there since we left the parking lot, but now they were close enough that we could hear them. Before they caught up to us, though, they veered left and headed down near the tennis courts and swimming pool, while we continued down the sidewalk along the main road. The speed of their pace and the purposeful manner of it made me suspect that they were also heading down to the Corner for breakfast and they knew a shortcut. Several minutes later, our parallel paths converged, and they were indeed a little bit ahead of us. “The stalker has become the stalkee,” I whispered, but a few minutes later, we had to admit that despite our respectable clip, we were, in fact, getting dusted by a couple of sprightly greyhairs.
They went into the waffle shop where we had eaten last year, but we continued for another half-mile to a different one, where I discovered that a three-cheese omelette with a few fun-size hash brown patties and a couple slices of toast provide enough fat and protein to keep a fellow feeling energetic and sated for almost seven hours, despite four miles of walking and a day’s hard work.
After finishing breakfast, having made such good time, we went back up the main lawn and past the library, taking a more relaxed amble this time. When we turned back onto the main thoroughfare again, though, we saw our fellow saunterers coming up via a perpendicular sidewalk. This sort of serendipity, this brief membership in a transient club of four, we felt, had to be acknowledged, so we turned toward them as they came into earshot and offered a hail-fellow-well-met. The Lady asked if they were also at the sale, which they were. They said they were surprised, because they thought they were the only ones who ever walked into town. We responded in kind. We asked if they were locals, seeing as how they seemed to know their way around. The wife said, “Well, he was a local, from ’71 to ’75.” “A lot of the buildings are different now, though!” he added. We fell into step together and chatted the rest of the way back to the sale.
By my math, if he was a freshman in 1971, that would make him 74 or 75 years old now, and I assume his wife was about the same. They told us that they bike about 30 miles every other day as well, near their home in Amish country. “No matter how tired I am, I never let myself get passed by an Amish buggy!” she asserted. I had to laugh in appreciation of that competitive spirit. Other than the grey hair, you wouldn’t guess they were anywhere near that age. Spry and athletic, they could have easily passed for being in their early fifties.
I don’t have any grand conclusion to the story. I just thought it was inspiring to meet such a role model. Hopefully the Lady and I will still be that fit and active at the same age, still strolling around campuses early on summer mornings.
We realized, to our chagrin, that we hadn’t been hiking since last September. First there were my two hospital stays plus eventual surgery. Then the new business got rolling and ate up a lot of our time. And even we aren’t quite mad enough to get up before dawn on a winter morning and go walk for several miles along a mountain ridge while our several layers of clothing put up about as much resistance to the howling, frigid wind as your grandmother’s password does to identity thieves. But we’ve hiked this trail twice in the past week, and it’s great to be back. No bears yet, but lots of chipmunks, plus what appeared to be a beautiful pair of orioles, a pileated woodpecker, and one bald eagle! The long-term forecast is calling for a cooler-than-normal spring in the mid-Atlantic; ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. We’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.
“Privilege” is to serious criticism what a strobe on a cop car is to natural lighting: a warning, not a source of illumination.
That is a phrase which makes me envious.
When I first discovered Freddie deBoer’s blog several years ago, it was revelatory for me. Not only was he an excellent writer, his criticism of the social media left managed to thread the needle perfectly — it was constructively critical without becoming reflexively contrarian. It reminded me of Jacob Bacharach in his IOZ persona, except that IOZ always seemed too in love with his own cleverness and too relentlessly ironic; Freddie, at least, wasn’t afraid to earnestly stand for something. I respect him for that, even if the things he earnestly stood for seemed increasingly cringeworthy to me.
Therein lay the problem — Freddie was invaluable for pointing out how online progressives practiced politics the same way they maneuvered through the social hierarchies of the high school cafeterias they had only recently left behind. Once you had seen the ubiquitous virtue signaling from his perspective, it was impossible to un-see it, and impossible to take any of these people seriously again. But how many times does this need to be pointed out? At some point, the question has to come up: are you constantly criticizing these people because you think that social media can seriously become a force for 21st-century socialism in America if only they would quit clowning around? Then I don’t think you clearly understand the nature of social media. Are you just criticizing them because it gives you a more exclusive niche from which to play the same signaling game? Then you’re just as bad as they are. Or do you honestly think there’s a silent majority of “true” socialist lurkers who are inspired by your example to do things correctly? Then I fear you’re deluded.
Most importantly, if you honestly think that incoherent socialism and legally-sanctioned polygamy are good ideas, I can’t take you seriously either. In fact, if that’s the sort of thing you want people to come together to work for, I’m perfectly happy for them to keep being pathetic and ineffectual while seeking status on social media. Power to the hashtags, baby.
Now he’s apparently done with his blog. I haven’t read him regularly for over a year, but I appreciate him in retrospect for the inadvertent way he helped me to a greater level of self-understanding, though he would probably be dismayed to think that he had played a significant role in turning someone away from radicalism. He convinced me that something was truly, deeply wrong with the left, and I spent years trying to understand what that was, only to conclude that he had severely underestimated the problem, and that the social media/justice left was actually a predictable feature, not a bug; the entire radical left project was diseased at the roots, incapable of being saved. Nevertheless, I have both intensely agreed and intensely disagreed with him, and it’s rare to find that, in my experience. It’s sad to see one more regular blogger give up and pack it in, and I wish him well.
Inspiration is hard to come by lately. That seems to be the case every summer. This year, especially, it seems that everybody is babbling about either the election or terrorism, and I have nothing interesting to say about either. I’m mulling over the thought of taking a moderate break from the web altogether to work on recording music like I did last year. We’ll see. Perhaps I’ll just continue to spend most of my free time hiking, swimming, reading, and playing video games for a few weeks until things become interesting again. Either way, here are a few good things I’ve read recently that you may enjoy:
Robert Herritt, “Hard to Believe“. This one really resonated with me. I find it very unsettling to consider just how little I really know about any given topic, not to mention how much of what I think I know depends on being willing to trust this or that source of authority.
John Gray (the British philosopher, not the Mars and Venus self-help guy) has always been one of my favorite authors, and his reviews of other books are equally worth reading.
Speaking of books worth reading, I might be interested in this one.
John McWhorter on the empty platitude of having “a national conversation” about race. (The site informed me that I got free 24-hour access to a “premium” article, so if you run into a paywall, try clicking through his Twitter feed, as I did.)
Everyday Feminism is an excellent parody site. Or, at least, your enjoyment will be maximized by reading it in that spirit. “Whew!” you can say after closing the tab. “Thank goodness it was all just a hilarious joke and no one takes that stuff seriously! Right? Right?”
John Banville, “Let It Go“
It was a long night for everyone
The moon yields to a sober sun
And her virgin light
Can’t unsee the things I saw
Fallen devils, false gods
In the violet light
Was it always this magnificent?
‘Cause it feels so different
In the morning light
Wasn’t ready for what I’d find
Whatever it is has turned the knife
It was a long, long night
I’m finally reaching to the sun
— Guster, “Long Night“
Then Zarathustra Returned Again to the Mountains and to the Solitude of His Cave and Withdrew from Men
Now I am still
no more words.
The time has come for this blog to hibernate while I indulge other creative hobbies.
As I’ve said a number of times, I’m just a working fellow with a day job and some entrepreneurial activities on the side. Free time is very hard to come by. For the last several years, I’ve devoted the majority of that free time to writing. Now I’m going to return to my first love, music, and concentrate on re-recording a few dozen of my old songs before seeing what sorts of new stuff I might write, given today’s incredible technology and more than a decade’s worth of new influences.
I want to immerse myself in it, which is why I’m not going to attempt to keep writing at the same time. That would only lead to the frustration of trying to do too much with too little time, and as a result, failing to do any of it satisfactorily. So, now, when I’m done with work and chores, I want my default setting to be picking up a guitar, rather than surfing the web. When I’m bored, I want to open up GarageBand and play with new sounds, rather than open a browser and play with the same old words. I aim to form an entirely new practice of leisure, to instill new habits. That’s the positive vision. On the negative side, I can feel diminishing returns setting in: I’m satisfied with the perspective I’ve attained, I’ve explored most of the available topics within my limited reach and ability, and I’m frankly just bored and/or weary of most online discourse. Books are far more worthwhile for inspiration, and I do plan to get a lot more reading done as well, but it takes a lot of time to fully consider the perspectives and insights that books offer. Better, in my view, to just close the lid on my brain stew and let those ingredients simmer unwatched for a while.
I’m not making any promises or suggesting any timetables. Weeks? Months? Years? I don’t know. I’ll just go as the spirit moves me. I seriously doubt I could ever quit writing, any more than I could quit being musical (in my mind, I’ve just taken a fifteen-year nap during recording). And I may yet escape from the rat race and find myself with more free time than I’ve ever had (that’s still the active plan, anyway). Until that time, then…