Sunday, January 10, 2021

Pour Me

I've started drafts of this blog a couple times already this week. I wrote one about the persistence of the kale in our garden. It's still out there, entirely edible if no longer growing. The last time I harvested some I had to scrape snow off the leaves. Damn hardy stuff.

Then Wednesday happened, and I spent most of my day watching the attack on the Capitol unfold. My work productivity took a hit, to say nothing of my writing goals. And I thought, okay, there's something – maybe I'd write about that.

But I don't have anything useful to say. I keep a blog instead of social media because my “hot takes” are always either obvious, wrong, or both. I've spent the last several days just trying to get my head around what happened, let alone what it means. The future – and I'm talking week by week at this point – seems not just unknowable but blown wide apart. Anything could happen, including the worst, and my misused imagination has really come up with novel ideas of what “the worst” might entail.

I really picked a bad decade to quit drinking.

In Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing*, Kierkegaard describes that “one thing” as “the Good.” Which is only kind of useful, because “the Good” is a pretty vague term, and Kierkegaard doesn't spend a ton of time defining it. He opts instead to spend chapters and chapters identifying different cases of "double-mindedness," which is the opposite of purity of heart. And boy does he identify a lot of it.

But at some point he does get a little more concrete. What we're meant to focus our will toward, Kierkegaard says, is a consciousness of our individual responsibility before God. He's talking partly about devotion here, but he's also pointing to the fact that in every moment we each have the capacity to make an individual choice. 

In Kierkegaard's theology, we won't be able to make any evasions when faced with Eternity. We won't be able to blame the crowd or the mob or society for our decisions. We are all responsible, entirely, for the choices we make. If that doesn't spark a little fear and trembling, I don't know what could.

There's a saying I've heard in AA: “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.” Self-pity is an easy evasion when things go to shit. It's a great excuse to start drinking. Believe me, I speak from experience. Worry and anger and fear are good excuses, too. But part of recovery is realizing that there will always be one more good excuse. If you're looking for a reason to evade responsibility for the choices you're making, they really aren't that difficult to find.

This is the moment we're in. It's pretty badly fucked up, and I don't have any answers. But just like I have a choice as to whether or not I drink – and I won't, because I choose not to – I have other choices every other moment as well. I don't know if Kierkegaard was wright about God, but he was spot fucking on about that.

*Can you imagine how mad Flannery O'Connor must have been that Kierkegaard got to this title first?

People Watching

On Wednesday, I went out to meet up with a friend and do some writing. We met at the Athenaeum, a historic building in Indianapolis designed...