Counterweight

November 23, 2016

 

The idea for this blog is something akin to those pectoral fly exercises that I sometimes do at the gym.  Lying on your back, you take two dumbbells, one in each hand.  Arcing the weights up simultaneously, you try to make them touch above your chest.  It's something like hugging a tree.  

 

One of these weights is our current political mess. I intend to stay on top of the national news and especially the Trump administration's emanations.  Though tempted, I will not avert my eyes.  In my other hand I will be gripping Wendell Berry, by re-immersing myself in his essays certainly, and possibly his poetry and literature.  He is, thankfully, the only counterweight I need.  One measure of success will be if I can bring these galactically dissimilar spheres together from time to time -- to make them touch. For I know that Mr. Berry has already answered Mr. Trump again and again, if we take the president-elect as the perfectly logical output of our phantasmagorical political and economic systems.  It's no longer urgent for Wendell Berry to tell us what he thinks about the 2016 meltdown, comforting as that would be. What's urgent now is that we who have been reading and enjoying him all these years say what we think.  And that we say it as assiduously and forcefully as possible.  If we find that we can't (and I can't, quite), then we should return to his words and work.  That's the point of this blog.  

 

There are a few things that I need to keep straight in this new venture as I can already feel the downward tug of my old thought patterns -- the kind that threaten to waylay this undertaking.  These familiar old foes include: caring too much about the quality of the writing; getting a little too preoccupied with building an audience or, in all honesty, connecting with anyone out there at all; worrying about being smart/profound/worthy of my subject; taking this all too seriously; petering out.  

 

This post, then, is a pledge -- the reminders I need about why I'm doing this at all.  (I will bookmark this 11/23/16 post knowing that it's the one I can go back to on days when I don't feel up to the job of blogging).  

 

First and foremost, I am in this for myself.  This is important.  I'm not above fantasizing that tens and hundreds and some day thousands of people will find this blog and become galvanized by its contents.  Writing, like speaking, is a generally a public act and unlike thinking, is something we do to be seen, heard and understood.  But this is a trap.  

 

By writing post after post, regardless of readership, I will be out walking with Wendell.  More than readers, and more than being understood even, what I want is to understand - truly and deeply - how to live in grace, in place and with hope.  I have always wanted this, to be sure. But it sure seems like winter is coming, and I worry that times are soon going to test our 'grace and hope' reserves. Let this blog be my place to learn and nothing more. 

 

Let it also be a place where bad writing, sloppy thinking, and half-formed ideas are welcome.  If not, the posting process is going to grow large and turgid and it will clog quickly.  No need for readers, no need for pride.  I pledge to let it flow. 

 

Fear not, Kenny, the taking of positions.  It's not your spiritual home, that's true.  But this is not the meditation mat.  The personal is political, or something like that, and perhaps one of the first lessons from Wendell might be that it's more profane to sit quietly by than to spit in the face of injustice.  A little more spit should show up here, as uncomfortable as that feels. 

 

Finally, (and this just came to me): "the writing is the lighting."  I'm not going to learn much if I don't commit to moving my fingers across this keyboard. I'm not going to know what each post is supposed to be saying.  I'm not going to understand all of what is happening in this country and world.  My access to information is limited, and even if it wasn't, I wouldn't know what to make of it anyhow.  My foundation for all this is shaky.  My power of analysis is limited.  My attention span is limited.  My stamina is limited.  I am no pundit.  But by writing, writing, writing, and not by reading alone, will the dimness brighten.  

 

Humility and simplicity.  A smallness of scale.  These are always the right rules of thumb.  Here too.

 

Our Only World sits on my bedside table.  The inauguration is 60-something days to go.  Up I lift.  

 

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