Hi!

I’m going to try something out, and I’m going to do it with a minimum amount of setup, but some setup is probably necessary.

When I’m at my best, I’m a curious person. I’m most curious about ideas — ideologies, philosophies, religions — but I’m also pretty curious about humans interacting with those things. For a while, I did a lot of independent research in to white supremacist groups (the Klan, the Order, Aryan Nation, etc.) and gave presentations about them. The highlight of my time as a journalist was a three-hour-long interview I did with an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who happened to live about 30 minutes down the road from my small town in Indiana. For a brief period I knew way more about the racialist right than anyone else I knew. I got to the point I was setting aside more books on the topic than I was reading all the way through.

When I was very active in left politics a long time ago, I was as intrigued by the assorted socialist factions I came in contact with as social entities as I was the political theory that drove them. I just found their norms and behavior fascinating and odd.

In some ways, I enlisted out of curiosity, too, and spent four years both struggling to be a good soldier, but really delighting in the ability to be immersed in a subculture most people don’t know much about. All the language, the beliefs, the manners … it was a good time for learning.

That curiosity has stayed with me. I’m grateful for my education in philosophy. It has profited me to be able to occupy different systems of thinking or perspectives — to live inside them and understand their patterns — without losing my own grounding.

Over the past ten years or so I felt some of that curiosity slip. A few things happened that caused me to deeply reappraise my view of the world, and to be honest I had some personal things happen that helped nudge me into a less angry place than I had been for a while. Some of the fire that had informed my curiosity faded. It felt better to me to listen to people more closely. I set aside a lot of ego so I could feel okay letting people teach me about stuff I hadn’t considered much. It was easier to be quiet and self-effacing. I think I lost a little of that capacity I had to take an idea in, inhabit it, then come back out of it with myself still intact.

Lately, though, a few things have happened:

My curiosity has woken back up, and I’ve come out of that long period of quiet listening and self-effacement with a sturdier sense of what I’m about than I have been in a while. I won’t go into the reasons why. I think we have all spent the past couple of years figuring out how to be in the world, adapting, and maybe struggling with understanding what we are in the face of so many tests.

So this thing I’m going to try is just a simple reading log.

I come across things I’d like to share with other people, but I haven’t taken the time to create a context to do that. Creating that context is important, because I like to read a lot of different things, from a lot of different points of view, and I like to bring things back from them.

That feels like a socially unsafe thing to do. People like their categories. They don’t want to be trolled. I’ve lived through a few public declarations of the death of irony, but it is somehow both infusing everything and simply not tolerated. It’s the age of the milkshake duck, the missing stair “ally” dude, and social media self-immolation. People are probably right to be wary, but that wariness is hard to navigate.

So, I’m going to keep this reading log. I’ll try to explain a little bit about what I find compelling or interesting about each thing I share. I’ll try to make it a thing I put together once a week so that when I share a link to it, it’ll be less likely to read, as single-link tweets do, as an isolated one-off (“why’d he share that?”) and more as a sort of mosaic.

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