Reviewed my old writings on this blog. Most of it had to go. Until 6 months ago I was writing in a style and on subjects I no longer find worthwhile.
I’d been putting off a purge of my own work because I didn’t want to confront errors in my thinking. I didn’t want to see derivative phrases and distorted sentiments. Disingenuous arguments or sloppy rhetorical meanderings. But there they were. Much of it was venting and experimenting with different voices. The process of writing out my moods has helped me understand my recent past, but many of those old pieces don’t hold weight for me anymore.
I want to move beyond overwrought confession. Especially of the self deprecating and whiny sort. It now strikes me as indulgent and lazy. And it stems from an indulgent, lazy character. When reviewing many of my old entries, it became clear that they were cheap, arrogant rationalizations for defeatist, depressive attitudes. I wanted to excuse inaction and fatalism. Give ugly self absorption an artistic gloss and create an effect with minimal effort.
Where was that going to lead me? I’m not an old man; I have years ahead of me. I’m not looking back on an entire lifetime of wastage and regret, so why am I pretending to be this character with no future? How did I get into this rut of self-crippling thinking, of looking forlornly over the past and seeing only ruin?
I can’t imagine another fifty plus years of thinking this way. Nihilism is an affectation when it’s not suicidal. A sign of spoiled character. The decisive change for me was accepting that I’m part of something larger and more meaningful than my own existence. It’s always been there under the surface, but I’m now working towards living in service to it. My own accomplishments or lack thereof are less important than the role I play in the lives of others, especially those genetically and culturally closest to me.
Living alone for a year accelerated my maturation; isolation taught me value and showed me purpose. While seclusion is instructive, it has its limits and tends towards depression and alienation. I got what I needed from it and now it’s time to come back to society. The right kind of society, of family and small community.
Urban life isn’t for me. I finally get it. I grew up in a small town and spent years thinking myself above it, wanting to get away and escape into anonymity. After two years on the east coast, among obnoxious strivers and yappers, I now know where I belong; back home in the midwest. In the rolling hills, the pastures and corn fields, in backyards and along muddy creek beds and river banks.
Driving by those beaten down barns with the basketball goals tacked onto the walls. The roads winding around rock quarries. Quiet evening walks through the neighborhood. Grilling hot dogs and burgers with my dad. There will be annoyances, disagreements, unavoidable tension. But nothing like the soul withering loneliness of the city.
I got rid of all the material that glorified sexual obsession and objectification. I can’t remember the exact moment when I realized this was a fruitless, dehumanizing approach to other people, but at some point I knew I had to leave it behind. For me it’s a question of consequence. Where does pursuing sex for its own sake take you?
I saw it leading to abject loneliness and spiritual corruption. It’s reductive, cynical, and also reinforces corporate and government power. The celebration of sex as a form of self expression or a private matter between individuals encourages selfish, atomizing, instrumental and desensitizing behavior. It sets people up for for perpetual disappointment and restless pleasure seeking.
Disappointed and restless individuals with weakened social ties need overgrown governments and corporations to provide them with ersatz meaning, direction, comfort and distraction. The breakdown of pair bonding is both a cause and product of social complexity. Cycling through sexual partners destroys continuity and history in relationships and jades the soul.
So no more wallowing in futility. No more excuses for nihilistic and impractical attitudes. It’s better to fight than decide in advance that you’ve already lost. The world is full of opposition and nothing worthwhile was ever done without resistance. There’s no getting around it, so I’d better make the best of it. I have a lot of life left to live.
As a postscript, none of this is to say that I’ll never reflect on depression or write about obscure moods. I won’t deny that I have a dark side, but I’m not going to sit there all day staring at the abyss.
Additionally, I’m not going to adopt a mindlessly positive attitude. I’m still going to be scathing and aggressive towards things I don’t like. I want to develop my critical voice while dropping most of the personal baggage.
Much of this concerns an evolving style and tone. But the underlying philosophy is different now as well.