On a textbook, no less.
On a textbook, no less.
Watched the new Chappelle show.
What struck me was how the entire monologue, start to finish, was about the woke politics of this or that protected group.
There’s nothing else to talk about in contemporary cultural spaces.
— Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) October 7, 2021
Michael Brendan Dougherty had a similar impression. I suppose we’ve reached the stage of complaining that all we do is complain about wokeness, for lack of anywhere else to go, conversationally speaking. Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was; we talk about wokeness because that’s where all the cultural energy is, sadly enough. I’ve started reading Ross Douthat’s book The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which seems to encapsulate a lot of my own thoughts from the last several years. The ideal of progress, which has carried Western civilization so far for so long, seems to have run into the law of diminishing returns. We’re sated with affluence and jaded by our technological marvels. There are no inspiring frontiers to be found. “High” culture almost seems ashamed of its own existence, and even popular culture has devolved to endless remakes and reboots of films and music from decades ago. The parasitical ideology of wokeness has taken advantage of this weakness and paralyzed its hosts — religion, politics, and culture — allowing its young to devour them from the inside. Establishment comedy itself has become just another form of po-faced preaching from people too oblivious to realize that they have become the insufferable tartuffes they used to mock, which is pretty ironically amusing, when you think about it.
I’m not an artist or a thinker. No one will ever pay me for my insights. I’ll never get to thank you for attending my TED talk. But for whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that these complaints about our woke preoccupations miss the point. There will be no “return” to a healthy, inspiring ideal of progress and civilizational self-confidence circa — gestures vaguely at the period between the American Revolution and World War Two — whenever your chosen golden age was. All we can do is make the best of the time in which we happen to find ourselves, with whatever tools come to hand. And so, rather than lament the fact that Dave Chappelle devotes the entirety of his latest comedy special to the trendy topic of transgenderism, we can ask, well, why wouldn’t he? That shit is hilarious.
I mean, come on. It’s simply funny to watch people desperately try to pretend to be other than they are while insisting that everyone else play along with them. It’s funny to watch the cultural ruling class trip over themselves to praise absurdities for fear of being treated as uncharitably as they themselves have treated countless other people. It’s funny to see our age’s contribution to the perennial human comedy, where the actors go out of their way to avoid self-awareness and, in the process, stumble from one slapstick adventure to another. And is anything funnier than having humorless prigs stand there stamping their feet while insisting that this is not funny and you will stop laughing this instant? Self-deception, vanity, status-seeking, folly; it’s all in there. Wokeness, like it or not, is what passes for religion and politics in our day. Well, then, until the extraterrestrial barbarians come to take over, let’s treat it accordingly and have some fun with it.
So, we spent last week moving into the new warehouse. Yesterday, four of us unloaded a 40-foot shipping container in one hour in sweltering heat. The first game of the new Bundesliga season kicked off this afternoon, with the Premier League to follow tomorrow. I’m weary and distracted, is what I’m saying, but I still have enough energy to point and laugh:
Obviously, getting rich and not giving a shit anymore is the birthright of every American. But this wasn’t supposed to be in the script for Obama, whose remarkable heel turn has been obscured by the Trump years, which incidentally were at least partly his fault. The history books and the still-starstruck press will let him skate on this, but they shouldn’t.
Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all.
Now, I have no serious gripes with Taibbi, who seems to be one of the few big-name journalists who has made an honest effort to retain intellectual integrity rather than allow Trump to break his brain and drive him into naked sycophancy for the Democratic party, but in the immortal words of Tonto, what do you mean “us,” paleface? Even in my younger naivete, when I considered Democrats in general the lesser of two evils, I never had any affection or expectation for Obama in particular. Anyone who seeks power ought not be trusted with it — I learned this principle sitting at the feet of the Taoist masters. Politicians may do some good, sometimes by intent, often by accident, but the idea that any of them should be thought of as heroes deserves a belly laugh, not a rebuttal. Expect nothing from them but lies, and give them nothing but invective in return. With no partisan responsibilities, I’m free to observe that the previous president was a crude reality-TV star and professional Twitter troll, the current one is a senile old buzzard, and both deserve all the insults and mockery that can be heaped upon them. Sorry for your misplaced optimism, but that’s a burden for you to bear alone, buddy.
Intellectuals are the bureaucrats of thought.
— Theodore Dalrymple, Midnight Maxims
Two things: One, the good doctor has a new book out consisting of 365 maxims composed during a period of insomnia. I’ve enjoyed it, and you probably will too. And two, this witty quip reminded me of a tweet that I only vaguely remembered and feared I’d never see again, only to stumble upon a screenshot of it this very evening. Look at this. This should hang in the Louvre with Dalrymple’s maxim below it:
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, rich, strange, and Scottish, died at eighty-four in 1799. He was known for exposing himself: he exercised naked before the open windows of his estate and eschewed travel by carriage, insisting instead on riding his horse Alburac through the damp gray of every Scottish season. Like many other men of his ilk and era—Rousseau, Condillac, Mandeville—he speculated at length about language’s origins among our primeval ancestors. He maintained, incorrectly but not unlaudably, that fully articulate speech first appeared in the Black civilization of ancient Egypt; that certain Native American languages were mutually intelligible with Gaelic; and, most notoriously, that orangutans were humans, though just too lazy to learn to speak.
This reminded me of Bernarr Macfadden. What is it about eccentric Scotsmen and their penchant for exhibitionist exercise? Is this some sort of strange offshoot of the Scottish Enlightenment? I think this bears further investigation. If any budding scholars need a topic for a dissertation, there you go. Take it with my compliments.
The perfect reading nook exists, I am sure of it. I am confident because I have experienced this nirvana personally. Let me tell you, it feels as if one is supping from the very vessel used during the Last Supper — provided you choose the correct chalice, of course. While many have explored this path before, searching for superiority in literary comfort, and found naught but personal ruin and destruction, the recipe for peak hard- or soft-cover consumption is quite simple. One only needs a plush wingback chair — along with, ideally, a warm fire and a purring cat (or a snoozing dog) nearby.
What, no pipe? Or would that have been a bit much?
Close your ears against this false prophet, friends. This setting is designed to produce naught but narcolepsy. My own counsel would echo that of Lin Yutang — reclining at about a 30-degree angle in bed, propped up on pillows or one of those reading cushions shaped like the top half of a chair. A fire? I’m sorry, am I only allowed to read during the months from November through March? It’s ninety degrees and humid around here; crank up the air conditioning (praise Willis Carrier) and settle back with a book propped on your chest, the way God intended.
I would just like to boast that I deadlifted 355 lbs. this weekend, and this puts me only 140 lbs. away from the 1,000 lb. club.
Wow. Just when you think you know a fellow. I’m really having to rethink my opinions on this Hitler guy.
When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. In learning to write, the pupil goes over with his pen what the teacher has outlined in pencil: so in reading; the greater part of the work of thought is already done for us. This is why it relieves us to take up a book after being occupied with our own thoughts. And in reading, the mind is, in fact, only the playground of another’s thoughts. So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading, and by way of relaxation devotes the intervals to some thoughtless pastime, he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk. This is the case with many learned persons: they have read themselves stupid.
— Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms
To become a thinker. — How can anyone become a thinker if he does not spend at least a third of the day without passions, people and books?
— Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits
Well, I typically do my reading in the couple of hours before bed, so I guess I’m keeping it within proper limits. I don’t know that I do any worthwhile thinking, or perhaps I should say woolgathering, during the rest of the day, but then again, I don’t have an inheritance (Schopenhauer) or a small pension (Nietzsche) to keep my time and thoughts free of more prosaic matters.
Nevertheless, it is true that we do well to not allow our thoughts to be captured by the inane ruckus made by peers and events. For my part, when I have a little spare time during the workday, rather than waste it on seeing what everyone on social media is shouting about, I like to browse a site like Redbubble and see what sorts of clever or amusing creations can be found under favorite topics. So, for example, what do you find if you do a search for G.K. Chesterton?
“The CHE you respect.” OK, I admit, I’d wear it.
My favorite Greek philosopher. So human, so relatable.
I may have already ordered a sticker of this one for my laptop.
I find myself captivated by this artwork. It speaks to me. What’s the story behind this? Is there a group I can join?