Can the dashing author-adventurer Bartleby Willard and his faithful editor Andy Watson get anything done? I dunno, maybe, if they can get the right rhythm going. Maybe they can put together enough sanity and creativity and firestorm and discipline and decency to make something of this project. However, what if their surrounding environment goes to pot? What then?
Many things can go wrong. A small band of haters can gather up chemical weapons or nuclear devices and take out a city or three. Or maybe before too long the world’s dependence on oil and fresh water will create a new cataclysmic strife. Or the pandemic really will come, and everybody will tumble into the sea, to float gently along: bloated sunk-eyed jellyfish who don’t recall their childhood in the scamper town or their grownup life drifting through the signs.
Or here’s a list of other worries I recently made:
We’re going to kill ourselves soon. I don’t know exactly where to fit this in. Categorize it under “First things first”. The US and Russia still full of nukes pointed at each other and around the world; still sliding nuclear submarines around the globe, ready to take out a billion people. And countries around the world still trying to edge their way into the nihilistic world-destroying club while those already in chuckle to themselves, their mountains safely full of doomsday–as if anybody could control doomsday! Oh, and then there’s pumping tortured livestock full of antibiotics; in this way agribusiness avoids the cost of treating animals with a trace of decency while simultaneously creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And what’s going on with GMOs? And why didn’t we put the brakes on high risk banking after it cost the world economy gazillions and came close to melting it down into burning paper and overturned streets.
Why don’t we get serious about nuclear disarmament? Why don’t we stop small groups from profiting by putting the rest of us in danger? Clearly the only hope is a growth in wisdom. But what does wisdom look like in the public sphere?
I would like to see an end to the subtle corruption of the USA of my day: The way money buys political ads and accompanying that money flutter lobbyists whispering sweet-somethings into squishy, campaign-fatted ears. But apparently spending money to make people see your propaganda everywhere they turn is equivalent to freedom of speech, which of course we need as a fundamental guard against corruption, and which is therefore duly protected by the very first amendment our forefathers brought forth on this great nation. It is perhaps conceivable that the right to outspend your enemies and therefore more fully saturate everybody’s poor little unsuspecting brain with your psychologically proven mind-influencers is not actually equivalent to freedom of speech. It is conceivable that that was nothing more than an opinion held at one specific time by the majority of nine old sitabouts who–far from being the Form-following philosopher kings that their intelligence, expertise, dedication, advanced age, and freedom from financial or career concerns was supposed to make them–had their own hatchets to sharpen.
But even supposing another set of uppermost judges were to–rightly or wrongly!–reverse the ruling that equates regulating campaign spending with regulating speech (perhaps using an argument that the speech act is one thing and the using power to drench the world in it is another thingNote 1), we’d still all be gathered around our own individual media sources, drinking only the spin that already agrees with our own particular prejudices, getting thicker and thicker in certainty and swagger and louder and louder in indignation and disgust at neighbors who gobble the contrary media.
The real problem is clearly that we’re an evil and depraved people. Except that if you actually meet us, we’re not that bad. We’ve just stopped believing in a shared good, in a larger nation, in beliefs and hopes and goals held in common. We’ve fallen for the lie of Red vs Blue and it is killing us down into the asphalt that the jumpers dent, splatter, and forget.
Perhaps if we began to pull ourselves away from the televisions and computers, and/or we began to demand not journalism that makes us feel like we are already right, but journalism that challenges us. (I know!: The problem with the latter fix is that the underlying problem involves how everyone thinks their opinions are the Truth and it’s the other side who can’t bear to be challenged with the Truth.)
Whatever you are trying for: “truth” or “goodness” or “holiness” or “best current guess” or “decency”–whatever phraseology you use, your deep underlying goal presupposes that life matters and that we can consciously find our way to better and worse ideas and actions (ie: your real motivation is a sense of meaningfulness deeper than ideas and feelings). So though our specific philo-spiritual persuasions vary widely, we all agree that life matters and that with open-hearts and open-minds, we can find our way to truer visions and better actions. Take that common ground seriously and you will see that it implies a shared absolute standard of values. The real Truth is prior to our ideas and feelings about Truth, but each of us has the same inner sense: this is the truth from which we can begin: this is the truth from which real commonwealth can beginNote 2): admit that the Truth is in each of us: we all know very well that life matters, that people matter, that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. We don’t just think that or feel that, we know it, and it is this deep knowledge, deeper than the assumptions out of which we’d build our doubts about the authority of this knowledge, that binds us.
We need to start seeing that we have enough in common and that the only things that win in media battles are memes and dramatic swells of self-aggrandizing emotion-puffs. People aren’t soundbites or momentary thrills. They aren’t even complex, well-thought-out ideas and intricate mazes of overlapping and interacting feelings. They are ideas and feelings centered around that indefinable something that motivates and justifies our attempts to use ideas and feelings to find truer and better paths. People win when they treat themselves and others with dignity and actually think and work together; they lose when they reduce the real world to black and white sides and human beings to us or them.
But in case we don’t straighten up and fly right, I’ve got another plan:
Some scientific genius can come up with some magic dust that will–upon release from a small, square-based, cork-stopped glass flask–instantly fill the world and undo all nuclear weapons all over the world–rendering them all harmless. Another scientific genius can come up with something similar for chemical weapon X and another for Chemical weapon Y. And then we’ll need a scientific genius to release a special bacteria that will make us resistant to all the dangerous ones and a special virus that will keep us safe from the bad ones. And so on. I’m not sure how many scientific geniuses we’ll exactly need, or how we can be sure to keep their inventions from not backfiring and actually making things worse. But at least that’s the plan in a rough-sketch.
Or everyone could do like me and turn into a superbeing that cannot be harmed by anything and that jumps from city to city, from harbor to harbor, from coast to valley, from desert to mountaintop, from the seafloor to the country church. I certainly enjoy this lifestyle and wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone. But for some reason the many–stiff-necked!–drag their feet, make milky-eyed laments and handlebar-frown excuses. They can’t, they don’t know how, they’re just so wretchedly mortal–and on and on. There’s no helping some people!
Author: Bartleby Willard
Oversight: Andy Watson
Copyright: Andy Watson
Note 1: This idea originated in the idle conversation of WAP co-founder and -leader Tom Watson, co-chief of the implausible yet achievable Wandering Albatross Press. On numerous chit chat throughout the continental United States, Tom Watson has expanded at length upon a scholarly legal article that he proposes to write. In this much-promised and little-realized paper, Tom plans on demonstrating the constitution’s ultimate support for campaign finance in the 21st Century and beyond, basing his prodigious future-arguments largely upon the distinction between the freedom to speak and share your opinions and the power to fill the media sea with them. Or so I understand this as yet nonexistent but at least to hear him talk inevitable intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement. As the unwritten article as yet remains unnamed, for convenience’s sake we will in the future refer to it as “Article I’ll believe it when I see it”.
Note 2: A Literary Allusion: “Villanelle for Our Time” by Frank Scott (Leonard Cohen put music to this poem in his 2004 album “Dear Heather”)
“Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.” is in F Scott’s poem.
I found the poem, along with a concise and thoughtful commentary by a certain “Max Stephenson, Jr”, professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, here;
It goes without saying that this poem is a favorite amongst Something Deeperists far and wide and near and far.
This piece has been filed under Diary of an Adamant Lover: Essayish.
About this project:
We’re letting Bartleby write his book; we’re even publishing it for him; it is two loosely bound sketchbooks:
(1) Love at a Reasonable Price: Stories of his magically timeless time here at Wandering Albatross Press interspersed with writings from that time or from now but somehow connected to that time–stories about manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling Pure Love;
(2) Diary of an Adamant Lover: Stories of his current time here all alone with the quiet squeaking floorboards and the rats thumping in the ceiling: Stories of his cries for help in the ruins of Wandering Albatross Press, the black and dark time after the hope and before the answer. We’re splitting this one into two sections: Biographical (writings that mostly relate the current movements of BW, AMW, and the rest of the WAP gang are ex) and Essayish (writings that mostly stay within a certain thought entertained and cultivated by the author and/or his editor).
Both books sold as they evolve here:
Buy the Books/Chapter
That page also includes a current list of chapters for each book.
Actually, the posts of Diary of an Adamant Lover probably won’t ever require a subscription. Still, with a subscription, you get a nicely ebound eevolving ebook compilation of the writings, and you get a quick buy eye-connecting “Thank you” from AW and BW as they bow their way out of the subway car with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the songs in their lungs.
This blog will consist of extracts from the book’s chapters as they are released into the lumiferous aether. You can buy BW’s book as he writes it here. You can also consider this blog a long advertisement for Wandering Albatross Press’s some-such-several wonderful products; like . You can also view this blog as it’s own thing–a good unto itself–and as such a sweet, chaste little kiss running through the infomaterous aether (the theory of a lumiferous ether through which electromagetic waves move is no longer widely accepted and its originators all long dead; it is very much in the public domain and so publishing houses, such as the beautiful WAP, can use it any way they please). But insofar as this is a commercial venture, we still need it fundamentally grounded not in profit-motive, but in kind delight. So cross your fingers for us; say a prayer for us; keep a gentle but stern, a wary but hopeful eye on us. Help us to try. Or at least let us try.
Author: Bartleby Willard, fictional character
Copyright holder/editor: Andrew Mackenzie Watson (of the Sand Springs Watsons)