Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.
- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
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For years now, I have written in this space as a traveler, a tinker, a gypsy, a fallingforward stumblebum. I have stretched out my legs and rested in this space and eaten apples off the nearby trees: books and music and poetry and half-remembered lines and phrases plucked out of books I haven't read, but somehow were passed to me in conversation and they stuck - burdock seeds clinging to what ever brushed against them. I began doing this to make sense of my life with no thought that anyone would ever happen upon my work. It was essential, in the beginning, to simply write and let it out into the internet ether so that it was no longer simply confined to me. Do something long enough and others notice. With readers came a shift in the work: less about me and more about you. The work was now about harvesting those apples to give to you so that you could do something with them. A few more of you came along and I found myself in the uneasy position of writing out ideas I had not fully made my own. It was aspirational for both of us, an exhortation to wake from the dolor of our flattened selves and engage life from a different footing.
The single most important lesson I have learned in doing this can be summed up in two words: ceaseless creation.
The life that is fucked is one that creates nothing, that contributes nothing to the world around it. It is myopic, nursing wounds, keeping them fresh, suffering past the loss and it is always self-referential.
The life that is unfucked is a stream, a river, a flood of works that is always, and in all places, pointed outward, toward others. Doesn't matter if you are baking cookies, or shoveling your neighbor's drive, or writing a new bible, the essential thing is that it is a gift you bring. And you do it even into the smallest hours, the smallest moment: each action you takes somehow supports the larger faith that the gifts you bring matter.
When I read, when I am silent in the house after my children are asleep and I am alone and let no thought bother me, when I eat as well as I can, when I walk among gravestones early in the morning as I am sometimes wont to do, the quiet, the simplest of pleasures, feeds that larger purpose; it is a making ready.
And for years, this space is what I have made myself ready for. And I will continue to do so, except things have changed again, a shift has taken place and the work here will change. I will never let go of the idea that our lives can be made more meaningful (if not necessarily easier or more comfortable) by engaging the unique abilities and habits of mind that each of us brings as the unheralded gifts they are. Somehow, by some unknown alchemy, we live and that is our deepest mystery, our truest privilege and the cross we bear - all at the same time. But my brothers and sisters, take a look around you: the world is coming apart at the seams. The civilizing aspect of culture and law and common cause has been perverted into narrow political aims to satisfy the madness of a few and to enslave the rest of us in fear: for our lives, in the face of the other, in what is different, with purity tests and compliance being the watchwords of acceptance.
You need to unfuck your life in order to help unfuck the world around you.
* * *
George Orwell's works are often smugly patted on the head with a knowing nod of "Orwellian." As if that adjective can stand for the entirety of a man's work. It is a poor use of the man. Orwell fought, through words and, for a while, with a rifle in his hands, against Fascism. He did so with precision of language and an empathy for those subjugated by fascism. He did so by ceaselessly working at his work, using what ever form made sense to him and not caring what others thought of him, but only that the words be sent out as far as possible.
We live in another age of fascism, of extremism, of feral, willful ignorance. This is the politics of our times: left, right, center, theocracy - no matter. Each uses tragedy to entrench their interests and leaves the rest of us as fodder for their aims. We cannot be silent, my loves. I cannot be silent and be satisfied that twice a week I leave you a note here.
There is more to do.
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I will, as I have promised, keep this work alive and will continue to bring to you what I find along the way. But I give you fair warning, I will no longer be silent in these pages about the politics that seeks to harm us. If I lose you as a reader because of this then I wish you well. I don't know what form this shift will take, only that it must be taken.
If you can look at the horror of concentration camps being re-built in central Europe, at the dead in the waters of the Mediterranean, at the rubble of Aleppo and the craven posturing of politicians using such suffering for their personal gain and not be moved to action, then frankly, I don't want to know you.
The only action I am any good at is putting one word after the other. From now on I'll be using that gift more precisely, with greater exactitude in order to challenge the political language of our times. In doing so, I hope to be able to braid that imperative with the one we have been working on here.
Wish me luck.