Bah! Humbug! A year older but not a penny wiser…
What would my ghosts of past, present, and future say? What would they have me change? One can only find these answers in sleep.
You see and hear it, too.
You just can’t call its name.
— Amiri Baraka’s “In Town”
The Unnamed resonates with me the way few books do. It describes something I’ve seen but can’t name. Joshua Ferris chooses not to name it, either, which makes it all the more potent.
I’ve shared the book with friends who may now question my taste in novels. I didn’t understand why then, but it was likely describing something they’d never seen.
But maybe you’ve seen it, too. I just can’t call its name.
With a few edits, this Samurai Code Quote from the Hagakure (or Ghost Dog, if you prefer), is more broadly applicable: “When one has made a decision … even if it will be very difficult … by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a long, roundabout way.”
The Shelley poem has reentered the public consciousness thanks to a Breaking Bad trailer. In summary, it’s about impermanence, particularly with respect to the product of mankind’s efforts.
When I look at the stats on this blog, I see that had a significant number of daily actives, which peaked in 2009 or thereabouts, and has since seen a precipitous decline.
Google Reader’s end certainly had an impact, which had it’s own rise and fall, but the effects were seen earlier.
Outside of this blog, the anchors in my life have shifted over time, albeit slowly. As they’ve changed, the empires of experience and familiarity built around them have similarly met with decline.
But there are moments when something from that past resurfaces, and I see that it too was once as great a part of my life as Ozymandias was to his fictional empire.
The pawn takes a year or so to take its first steps forward: one or two. That’s when things start to get interesting. Eventually, multiple pieces are in motion, and some decide to build a castle. For some, the endgame arrives too soon, and for others, it ends in stalemate. There are still some who think they can win, and they devise elaborate strategies, and pore over books and papers.
Some question the fairness. Who let the knights move that way? Why does the king only move one step when it’s the most important game? It’s not about justice, though, which is subjective. It’s about the rules, and the rules aren’t going to change. Just like tic tac toe.
It’s a crowded room, with most people grouped up in twos, threes, and fours. Hands hold glasses of wine or bottles of beer, laughter follows from the exchange of words. There’s a person standing on the edge of one of these groups, head behind the shoulders of two people, trying to join in. Someone sidles by and says, “Let me tell you a story.” A new group forms.
It’s a long table. There’s a conversation just past the halfway mark, and the farther end struggles to hear. Someone at the far side asks a neighbor a question. They respond and end with, “What about you?” A new story begins.
It’s been ages since an update, and a tool many people used to subscribe to this RSS feed no longer exists. There may no longer be a reader, but it’s time to tell stories to whomever will listen.
- Complete ignorance: As Donald Rumsfeld would say, it’s an unknown unknown.
- Buzzword: Like the buzzer in Taboo… bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
- Use it: Oh, you can use it to do X!
- First question: The person asking it is in level one or two, and the people around are in level five or six. Like a song you know some of the lyrics to, you let the well understood parts come out loudly and the less understood parts drop as a mumble or whisper.
- Eloquence: The concept now comes out with grace, eloquence, and an appropriately modulated voice. For assholes, you might throw in some sarcasm and intimidation for good measure.
- Monopoly: Someone asks you a question related to the concept, and you start explaining the idea. They persist in protesting it doesn’t make sense for their question. You stand your ground, explaining further. Then they say something, and you realize the assumptions you based your understanding on don’t hold in the new setting. New concept! Go to level one. Go directly to level one. Do not pass ‘Go’.