I haven’t been writing much on this blog for quite some time. I’m sorry about that. Here are some of the reasons.
Printculture began as a kind of conversation among five or six people. Some knew each other, some didn’t. Eric, I think, was the one friend common to us all. Our postings, in the form of little essays and reflections, were offered the way people contribute to a conversation: sharing a piece of knowledge, riffing on something someone had said, making a joke. At the back of it all was a feeling that conversation was intrinsically rewarding and that this conversation in particular was rewarding enough to hang it up for the public to see.
I still live for conversation but I’m increasingly disappointed in it. The people I know often seem deaf to one another. Their curiosity about the world has yielded to confirmation bias. They deliver identity monologues, infotainment, talking points, questions with an already known answer. Even the people I like and agree with are melting into their mission statements. All this is perfectly adapted to social media, where we are perpetually curating our personal brands. If those are the terms, I lack the desire to participate.
Reading the news, as I’ve been doing forty times a day for the last few years (the nervous pulling of phone from pocket having replaced the newspaper at the breakfast table), doesn’t make it seem that rational persuasion has much of a future, or that such persuasion as I have to offer has much of an audience.
I like solving intellectual puzzles. How to better understand history and nature? How to confront the unexpected? How to make it possible for more people to live long, free, and perhaps happy lives? I don’t like comic books, beauty pageants, name-calling, blame, or trolling. The interests that make those things vital to the cultural life of this moment in my country leave me cold. Thus there is less and less to say to people in general. (I am always up for a chat about Tangut script or the authenticity of poems ascribed to Su Dongpo.)
But I continue to renew hosting agreements and SSL certificates in the hope that something will bring me back.
(The above was written after an eight-month break from social media. Try it yourself: when you log on again the quality of communication, in contrast with the most banal words exchanged on the street or at the cash register, will jar you.)