Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

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Opinions, perspectives, viewpoints, etc.

Literature as equipment for living

What if we were to think of literature and the other arts as a kind of repository of habitus, a motley collection of practices and strategies? “Motley” because we can never adopt them simply and straightforwardly – we have to accept the inevitability of bricolage. But still: experiences not just to admire or appreciate but to use. Edward Mendelson’s idea of “literature as a special form of intimacy” seems relevant here – literature, and the other arts, as equipment for living, equipment shared by fallen mortals, thinking reeds, puzzled people in the process of being formed. An improvised sociology for wayfarers.

equipment, Snakes and Ladders

Lessons Learned in 2021: Less busy is easy, more meaning is hard

As indicated in my Happy New Years post, I feel like I have learned somethings about myself in 2021 and that I am in a better position to post to this blog as a result. Obviously, I did not set out to learn things simply so I could blog here.

Like many during the never-ending ongoing pandemic I was trying to figure how I wanted to structure and approach my life.  What would I spend my time on? Where would I put my focus and energy?  What ultimately brought joy and meaning into my life?

There were a number of factors involved:

  • I am now working from home for the foreseeable future while my wife has a longish commute.
  • I continue to focus on my health. Having lost nearly 45 pounds, my focus is on finding a workable balance when it comes to diet and exercise. Not losing weight or gaining it back but finding a healthy stability. I run three or four times a week but still eat too much sweets and carbs.
  • I still read quite a bit but seem to struggle retaining knowledge and information from what I read.
  • I have a rather large library at home and yet still struggle not to buy more books and check out books from the library.
  • Despite wrestling with what you might call digital minimalism for many years now, I still find myself distracted by electronic devices and gadgets.

What has been reinforced for me time and time again in 2021 is that distraction is easy and focus is hard. A cliche right?  But nonetheless true.

Arnold Kling on George Packer, David Hackett Fischer, Walter Russell Mead and America’s Four Traditions

Interesting discussion here from Arnold Kling:

In a recent essay drawn from a forthcoming book, George Packer says that American society has fractured into four groups. But David Hackett Fischer noticed these same four traditions, dating back to the first English settlers, in his carefully-researched book, Albion’s Seed. Fischer’s concept then became the basis of Walter Russell Mead’s book on tensions in American foreign policy, Special Providence.

George Packer rediscovers four traditions

Kling goes on to offer what he sees as the correlation between Packer and Fischer and Mead but he also offers his own take on the traditions. But I wanted to highlight his conclusions which is borne out of a frustration I share. How the libertarian perspective seems to be the bogeyman these days while ever increasing government never seems to be blamed for failure:

Free America has become the scapegoat of nearly everyone. Conservatives blame libertarians for social and economic disorder. Progressives blame libertarianism for inequality and injustice. Populists dream of taking power from the elites. But I believe that we will see in the rest of this decade that big government only exacerbates the disorder, inequality, and power imbalances that it purports to solve.

[vigorous nodding by me]

Reading, Re-reading and Reinventing Paul

I have something of an obsession with the idea of reading more deeply in a subject and thus coming away with a deeper knowledge of one specific topic, idea or area of thought.  Please note that I said “the idea of” as I have pursued this idea in theory a great deal more than I have actually practiced anything like it.

This is why I have a rather large collection of books on conservatism for example.  Or the entire American Presidents Series.  Why I purchased a number of books that act as primary documents of sorts for Black History Month.  Oh, and shelves of books on myths, legends and fairy tales.  I often act as if collecting books on a subject will force me to read more deeply in a topic and thus gain knowledge (see yesterday’s post).

Alas, I rarely get beyond a book or two and soon the collection stares at me from the shelf mocking me… (I never got to the primary source books for Black History Month).
a stack of books on Paul
But I am here not to castigate myself, but to report on my current assignment which I am actually managing to stick with so far: reading books on Paul (another of my mini-obsessions).

Mindlessly seeking information, never finding knowledge?

This was posted to my Hey World feed on March 6.  I decided that I should keep all my content here, so am posting it below. I am mulling a response/follow-up which I will post here as well.

Reading Jonah Goldberg’s G-File this morning kicked off another round of ruminating about digital media.

I have been thinking about my presence in, and use of, technology and the digital world for some time. I started blogging twenty years ago.  I joined Twitter in 2008. I was the manager of new media for a U.S. Senate campaign.  I currently manage social media for a state agency as part of wider communications duties.

And I have been wrestling with how to responsibly and intelligently manage this interaction nearly from the start.  When I was a freelance consultant doing digital advocacy, I was constantly wrestling with what they now call “work-life balance.”  I had to learn to not constantly look at a screen; particularly when I moved into the world of “smart” phones (starting with a Blackberry).

The internet never shuts off so when does the workday end?  How do you separate your work online from your personal social media and from “normal” life? These questions and more were always bouncing around in my head.

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