Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Am I Writing This?

That is a difficult question. I don't answer difficult questions unless you ask me while holding a check or a gun. And even if I did tell you, I might lie. More likely though, I'd just be wrong. Being wrong is more common than lying is. Occam's paper cuts apply here too.

I think I know why you read it, though. Because I am an idler, and you wish to live vicariously through me.

Now, by idler, I don't mean a guy doing nothing. I'm working more than most people are, and harder than maybe I should. But I'm not in a normal sort of work setting, and the trajectory of my life is not predictable. I go places and see things and do things and so forth that salubrious people have to eschew to make this world go 'round properly.

We used to play sports. Then we began to watch others play sports for us, and sat in the audience. Then we invented media so we could watch people watching. Now we go to chat rooms and talk about persons that watch people watching other people playing sports.

It's all fine, of course, but the further removed from the engine of your interests you become, the more you long for a glimpse of the world you're not currently in. People's lives are richer and more interesting and varied than they ever have been, but the cost of that minutely parsed use of your skills, interest, and time is to risk making you feel a bit disconnected from the world at large.

And so perhaps you seek out others, whose lives are different than yours, and try to inhabit their little world for 600 to 1200 words at a time, and take a vacation from your discontents for a moment. What's that dope with the two kids and the wife and the cottage and the guitar and the furniture and the camera and the keyboard doing today?

It's not my fault I notice things, I used to tell people. I'm pleased to notice things for you, and allow you to notice things, namely me, in turn.

I read musty authors a lot. Twain, Mencken, Bierce, Kipling, Gibbons, Smith. I read Robert Louis Stevenson still:

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college or kirk or market, is a sympton of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiousity; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its' own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will ever stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk; they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill.

We all must furiously moil in the gold-mill. If I help you to idle a moment, as many have helped me, than I am content. To the rest of you... well... you're not reading this anyway.


Icepick said...

And here all this time I thought you were writing an idyll....

Patrick Martin said...

Hmmm... "moil" and "gold" in the same sentence. I suspect you of reading one of my own favorite musty old authors.

lohwoman said...

I read you because you go to the effort to write in a charming, thoughtful fashion and you have a wide range of topics. It seems to me that someone who writes the way you do merits an audience. I comment once in a great while to let you know that I'm a fan. (An aside: I write a weekly "report" to family, friends, even former students, containing observations about my workplace. From the 60+ people I email the epistle to -- I'm drafting Week 24 right now -- I have never received any sort of feedback from 80 percent or more. Is anyone out there?)

I discovered you from reading your comments on althouse. I enjoy the various ways you make your point on that blog. Plus you always have something worth reading.

I will say that I strongly disagree with your statement of several weeks (months?) ago about public library collections. Unless you're talking about a library district with a lot of branches, your local library really does not have the luxury of serving just as a repository of out-of-print books. From my years as a director of a public library (I am currently in a special library), I know that users have varied needs and demands. Hardly anyone comes in on a nostalgia trip. I do remember the middle-aged guy who stopped by because he was in town visiting his elderly mother and he wanted to know if we still had that space adventure (Gosh, I can't remember the title but I'd know it if I saw it) that he had enjoyed reading 45 years ago. No, we didn't still have it and I'm sure our "quaintness rating" with him suffered. There's also a physical limit in a library. It would be painful to devote precious shelf space to the collected works of prolific authors of what was contemporary fiction in 1940 and not have room for the contemporary fiction of 2006.

SippicanCottage said...

lohwoman- Thanks, you're very kind.
You're a librarian? That makes you a high priestess in my religion.

cakreiz said...

Funny you should say that. I remember as a young boy walking into a branch library. I intuitively sensed it was a place of profound respect and worship.