A week ago, my inbox contained more than one thousand emails. Right now, it contains fewer than one hundred. I can’t remember when I had so few emails waiting to be deleted. It’s rather liberating. Not only that, I’ve also been deleting emails that I filed away in my archive folder. Nearly every one is a link to a blog post I thought I’d someday get around to reading. Thus far, I’ve deleted more than one hundred of those, and I still have plenty left. Oh, and I’ve been unsubscribing to much of the junk that gets delivered, which should help me keep the old inbox relatively clutter-free. Isn’t it amazing how much weight gets added to your life by things that have no physical presence—and how good it feels to lighten the load? If I could do the same with books, I’d really be getting somewhere, but I can’t quite see that happening. In fact, I ordered another today.
At teatime, I reached for Beauty Will Save the World by Gregory Wolfe. I hadn’t touched it in more than a week, which isn’t too bad, really. Anyway, I now know a little more about Wendell Berry, and Wolfe makes him sound intriguing enough that I want to know more. First of all, it seems like labels don’t readily stick to the man. Wolfe tells me:
Pinning down Berry politically is a difficult, if not impossible, thing to do. He has supporters and detractors on both the Left and the Right. His writings have done much to fuel the environmental movement around the world, and yet he shares little in common with the typical Sierra Club member. His defense of marriage, family, and local community, and his ongoing debt to the Christian worldview are a source of embarrassment for many of his “green” friends. And while he has fervent supporters among those who call themselves “traditionalist” conservatives, Berry would be regarded by most readers of the Wall Street Journal as little more than a crackpot.
Perhaps I sense in him a kindred spirit. The more I read, the more I feel like I’m alone in the world, so kindred spirits are become increasingly hard to find.
Then, of course, there is a whole lot of unlearning to do. I seem to be making progress in that department. Just today, I had two out-of-the-ordinary experiences on Twitter. In the first, I followed a link to a site I seldom visit, but not because I tend to disagree. On the contrary, I generally find like-minded content there, but not today. The article I read left me shaking my head and thinking, “Wow. You people don’t get it at all, and you must simply be looking to be offended because what you took exception to doesn’t even exist. You construed your own meaning simply to pick a fight.”
In my second rather novel Twitter experience of the day, I retweeted a glowing endorsement of an article that I really liked, and the person with whom I so readily agreed labels himself as something I almost never find common ground with. In fact, because of his label, I hesitated to reply to him about how much I, too, enjoyed the article. Such labels have certainly stopped me in the past, and that’s rather silly, don’t you think? It’s that shortcut so many of us want to take, though. Rather than listening and being open to someone’s point of view, we close our ears once we read the label, and we don’t even bother to try. I don’t think that I’ve ever actually met someone who is wrong about everything—or who is right about everything, for that matter.
Yesterday I wrote about reason and reality, so I have to ask: is going all-in with one person, party, theory, or mentor reasonable? How do we get a true grasp of reality if we view it from only one perspective? When I’m outside aiming my camera at whatever the sun is highlighting, I’m usually shooting into the light, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t walk around to get the sun behind my back and see if what I discover in the viewfinder is better from that angle.
Also yesterday, I started reading An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman. It will be the fourth book written by her that I’ve read. The first of her books that I picked up was The Moon by Whale Light, and I loved it. I think I’ve read it three times. Ackerman’s writing style is lovely. She is passionate about many things, but perhaps most of all about putting words together. I appreciate that, and reading her prose if almost like reading poetry. Unfortunately, though, my infatuation with her writing has cooled. Her non-religious bent colors her research, and over and over in A Natural History of the Senses and A Natural History of Love I found shoddy work, overwhelming bias, and wrong conclusions.
So why am I reading another one of her books? Because I still enjoy her writing style, and because I always learn something, even if it’s something that sounds fishy and sends me off to do my own research to ascertain whether or not my gut feeling is right.
I just took a peek at my browser and noticed how many tabs are open. I also took note of what is open. Now that I’ve made so much progress on my inbox, perhaps I should turn my attention to all that I want to read online, or at least all that I’ve started reading online, like the New Criterion article on Solzhenistsyn by Gary Saul Morson. I still have not made my way more than, probably, one-fifth of the way through it. Oh, and there’s that blog post a friend asked me to read weeks ago. I read it quickly once, but it is a response to a response to a long post about moral monsters who make art. I devoted time to reading all of the original post, but I still have to get to the first response. With my luck, there’s likely now a response to the response to the response to the post on moral monsters and the art they create.
This is the house that Jack built.