Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dear diary: You are of course a diary now more than ever, because you exist only as a way for me to capture snippets of my life as it speeds by, and less to inform others what I find interesting. The capturing is so hard, because those snippets are so slippery. Because for me expression in writing takes so much effort. I wish that I could sit down and tap away unconsciously--be what my military colleagues call an "unconsciously competant" diarist--but, alas, I cannot. It is work, work I should, I know, I know, embrace, with the hope that it will get easier. But I can't help but think that even though there are infinite permutations in the way to arrange words to make sense in this and any other language, my scribbling is still a finite resource, and that I'll use it up in efforts such as these.

This is no paranoid delusion or false modesty. An example of my all too obvious shortcomings in this vein is painfully current. Your humbled diarist recently wrote in a book review that "Any attempts to democratize those who have no experience with democracy, particularly in the aftermath of war, are bound to yield glaring failures and quiet successes, the loss of traditions, good and bad, and the acquisition of habits, destructive and productive. All of this should sound familiar—-a cold comfort, perhaps, but a comfort nonetheless." Then came this these lines from a nearly contemporaneous essay: "That is not to say the American mind for war is amoral, but rather that morality, like so many other aspects of American thought, is pragmatic. If wars can be won by bombing military targets with as few casualties as possible, Americans will seize the chance. If wars can be won by capturing capital cities or winning decisive battles without involving civilians, wonderful. But if not, the American mind for war dictates that attacks grow steadily more devastating to enemy armies and then enemy populations until they have no choice but to give up the fight. The sooner the war ends in victory, the better--for everyone, but especially for us. It is brutal logic, but logical nevertheless." The words are not the same, but same enough nonetheless.

So I do not write everyday, a la Lileks, lest the writing well, already shallow, dry up completely. Still, the need to capture something pushes me from time to time to make the journey across the web to Blogger, to begin posts based on favored readings rather than my own musings. Perhaps recording what readings I fancied will fill in, in some way, for what I cannot write. Maybe I can get ahold of a few of those snippets, wily, sneaky, slippery bastards they might be.

The upshot of this meandering introduction is that I have any number of links and half-finished posts saved in emails and unpublished files, some of which provide glimpses into what I was thinking at the time. For example, last June (2007), I found this one:

Boys and girls, with a girl on the way. I find myself reading articles such as these with more scrutiny every day, as the Oracle at Ultrasoundia predicts a daughter in the near future. In praise of skinned knees. A modest rebellion makes me feel better.
Obviously, the Girl was born shortly thereafter, which by no means alleviated my feeling that boys can take more skinned knees and girls need more protection. I know, I know, I'm hopelessly hidebound and paternalistic. But then I am a conservative and a father, so I'm hidebound and paternalistic by definition. So there it is, I'm going to coddle my daughter more than my sons. I can't help it, and I'm not sure I want to. (The fact that she's the cutest thing ever made the daddy instinct kick in even more than I anticipated last summer. Seriously, look at this:

Who could possibly not want to coddle that?)

Of course not every link or series of links in my personal archives of failed posts and half thoughts are so directly personally relevant. Sometimes the links speak for themselves, but I did not get them out fast enough for them to be of much use. For example, back in April of this year I wrote that "two articles from the New Criterion are absolutely worth your time": "Shed No Tears," about the unquestioning worship of Native American cultures, and "Rudyard Kipling Unburdened," on the genius of the much-maligned writer. Both are behind subscriber walls, as is much of the New Criterion webpage now, but if there is access through the local library, they are very much worth any reader's time.

Then there are the old links and notes that no longer make much sense to me, if they ever did. For example, also back in April, I wrote "Why not, really? I get it. Journalists are obnoxious in so many ways," and had a link to this article about the monstrous Newseum in Washington D.C. The point? No idea. I think maybe I was going to make the case for the museum, but I'm really not sure why.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere, really. I went to Blogger today, saw some unpublished material, and could not help but ponder where I think I am in my engagement with this medium. Even as I have the chance to write more and more for more official outlets, there is still something to this place. Even for those of us who fear wasting our limited writing abilities on posts, and that we might have only fleeting relationships with our readers, these blogs, with the links to articles that we read and the small anecdotes that we pass on, feel like a record of something. And so I'll revisit them from time to time, when I feel like I have something I must record.

Which reminds of why I came here in the first place, small though it may seem. I found this article by Joseph Epstein about the decline of mainline Protestantism to be absolutely marvelous. I'm sure that says something about me, and I guess that's the point.