September 8th, 2020

Random notes.

Wasn't that long ago, I made fun of conspiracy nuts. These days, I buy ALCOA wrap according to my hat size. Times change.
Authoritarians love "states of emergency" because then all normal constraints and expectations are waived. Day-to-day technical and managerial competence is no longer scrutinized because "it's an emergency!" Any kind of action, no matter how ill-advised, can be justified because it's "doing something".
If you take 50 random people off the street, and you want to find out which ones are alcoholics, invite them all into a bar and buy them each ONE drink. And then watch to see what happens. Because some people can't stop at just one.

Those 50 people are the 50 state governors. The COVID-19 crisis gave them their first taste of unchecked, raw, 200-proof power. And we saw which ones got drunk on it.
The Covid scare campaign (as distinct from the virus itself, which nobody disputes is very real) appeals to a certain strain of vanity: the conviction that "I am among the selfless few, bearing the burden for an ungrateful and ignorant humanity".
The "new normal" needs to be a Big Government that has been de-fanged, de-clawed, and neutered.
There's a deliberate strategy to decouple moral reasoning from the objective, observable consequences of your actions. Global warming, pandemic masks. It's so that your sense of guilt can be properly manipulated.
'Thus the principle of the unity of humanity, so noble in theory, rapidly divides mankind into two camps: those who are regarded as favoring the good of mankind, in they adopt the empire's categories for determining what is beneficial and right; and those who are regarded as opposing the good of mankind, in that they insist on thinking in terms of the customary categories of the tribe, which the empire invariably condemns as primitive and barbaric.' - Yoram Hazony

Retrospective: 9 years.

Around this date in 2011, I was traveling to Connecticut for the 30th reunion of my high school class. Although I didn't journal much about the reunion itself, I remember it - even now - as a quietly magical evening. I think there's something about the passage of that much time that gives everyone a chance to look back from a different angle.

My visit to Connecticut that year wasn't lengthy, but I did get a chance to pay a quick visit to the beloved, venerable Wood Memorial Library:

It's now officially billed as the "Wood Memorial Library and Museum". It's not the town's main library, but it has wonderful atmosphere and history.

I got to go in today when it was open and was delighted to find a preschool storytime group seated in the children's section in front. The kids left in about an hour and I hung around for another hour or so, perusing the adult fiction (in back, up the stairs in the mezzanine) and nonfiction (down the stairs in back) and the gallery and discarded book section in the basement. Oh, and I sat in the bird room for a while, too.

I chatted with the librarian for a bit and swapped memories of school days. It was strange and wonderful talking about my old schoolteachers. So, already this visit has brought back some great memories.

I'd feared the Wood would have either closed down as a library, or else would have been gutted and "modernized". But no, it's still a fully operational lending library (albeit open only two or three days a week) - and it's a REAL LIBRARY! I mean, they check out books with a stamp, not scanners and barcodes. And the card catalog is on real cards.

I also mused on aging and the creative writing process, and how growing older sharpens the inner critic - which can be a good thing, but it makes it hard to recapture what I call 'chutzpah':

... Naturally, then, your writing should get better over time. The wellsprings of creativity should nurture crops that yield an ever more abundant, ever more delectable harvest. As the years pass, the masterworks should fairly flow from your brain; and by the time you reach old age, the floor should be littered with a constant blizzard of sheets filled with brilliant prose, piling up like toilet paper dispensed by an exuberant kitten.

So, why doesn't it always work this way?

This is the part that's unsettling to think about. The thing is, when you're younger, you have a certain bravado - a certain chutzpah - that's very difficult to recapture when you're older. With age, you become less spontaneous and more critical. You see problems more easily than solutions. You become preoccupied with technique. You second-guess yourself.

It's hard to think about this because, obviously, we are always getting older. And we like to think that our suffering has meaning. We like to think that the dues we've paid, the bitter lessons we've learned along the way, have not been for nought, but have given us hard-won grist for the mill; we don't like to think that the mill itself may be getting worn and creaky.

Nine years later, I still don't have a good answer, but I'm back at the mill, grinding away.