Read no further if you are uninterested in the internal ramblings of a middle-aged man…
I am in a pre-birthday semi-navel gazing space. I hit 50 in three weeks. I don’t even want to review the things I said I’d do this year. Situation’s in flux over the past year.
It was a good year, though. I am beginning to feel a lot more comfortable in this skin. My current circumstances, materially, have changed since last year. I now have a salaried job closer to home. I am earning a lot less but spending more time with family and developing nascent friendships in real life.
My body is not as bone-tired on the weekends as it was a mere month and a half ago. My family tells me I am nowhere near as grumpy as I used to be, that my sense of humour is returning.
I was prompted to write this because I knew I had to write something: I had found myself just about to go onto Amazon and rearrange my wish lists in an effort to avoid writing.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot to say about almost anything. And there is certainly a bit of pride in having the nuanced minority opinion on many things. But I am shamed from reading the diverse sources from which I have been deriving my opinions lately.
My life has seemed relatively superficial over the last 10 years. It has been a focus on pursuing material comfort (i.e., paying the bills alongside spending on a few, spartan luxuries) and trying to be there for my family. I haven’t done much else, especially in the intellectual sphere, besides reading and listening to podcasts.
Most of the fare I have been imbibing has nevertheless been a bit more intellectual than I let on, I suppose. But I haven’t done anything with it, really.
My teachers are steeped a lot more in philosophy and the intellectual tradition than I have ever been, and in some respects I feel a bit of shame. I have been given the capacity to understand and synthesise ideas and facts from diverse sources and come to my own (perhaps unoriginal) conclusions.
But I have been remiss up until recently in my intellectual pursuits. Rather than going to the sources of our Western Canon, I have taken second-hand accounts and have remained a dilletante in the world of ideas.
For instance, I read Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies about 12 years ago when I was in the midst of my conservative libertarian delusion. As a result of that, I felt I could easily dismiss both Plato and Hegel because they were the root of all that is wrong in the world.
Leaving aside the fact that George Soros purports to be a disciple of Popper (Ye shall know them by their fruits), I am coming to learn that there may be something in Plato or Hegel. They may not be right, but they have something to say.
It’s also easy, as well, to dismiss the Post-Modernists as they seem to be a reflection of, if not a contributor to, all that seems to be wrong in our modern world. But were it not for their entreaties to question and challenge everything, I would not be finding myself returning to more based minority ways of thinking about the world.
The recent Brexit debacle has found me returning to anarchist (and nationalist) ways of thinking about government. But not in the free-for-all, anything goes free market anarchism of Rothbard et al, nor the destroy all hierarchies atheistic anarchism of Proudhon and his inheritors. Just that there are other ways to govern and that they have been successful until infiltration by external forces.
I have slowly been returning to Christianity after a brief hiatus. I have been learning a lot about Orthodox Christianity, its history, and its practitioners over the past couple of years and am coming to a few conclusions about faith, philosophy, politics, family life, and other things.
I have learned, for instance, that many Protestant world views and Protestant critiques of Roman Catholicism already existed in the Orthodox world before the 1054 schism, either as dogma or as heresy. But because of the schism in the West and the encroachments of Islam, these ideas had to emerge in somewhat of a vacuum during the Reformation. And the subsequent degeneration of all the main denominations of Protestantism comes as the result of being a heresy to a heresy.
All that being said, I am still a dilettante in the world of ideas. I have probably read more than most, both in quantity and breadth of ideas. But I still just skim the surface.
I am also becoming a bit of a nationalist. And a lot of my reading of contemporary nationalist thinkers is showing me just how shallow my intellectual pursuits have been. Most of my knowledge of the Western Canon is second- or third-hand. That needs to stop being the case.
Somehow, too, writing is all tied up in this. I know I need to write something, but I am reminded of my ignorance daily, and am ashamed of it in light of many of the blogs and essays I have been reading lately.
I have something to say, and I know others have probably said it better because they have that grounding that I don’t have. But I will try to overcome that by engaging with the Canon.
Enough navel-gazing for now, as my reverie has been broken by the appearance of a six-year-old redhead in my office. Time to go be a daddy.