After much thought but surprisingly little gnashing of teeth, I’ve decided to retire The Recreational Nihilist. It’s been six years – Six! Years! – since I first started writing this column for The Front Page before it was Online. The time has come to set it aside.
There are a few reasons underlying my decision, one of which is NOT a lack of things to say or topics to write about. I have been reading, with great concern, about the Tea Party and an increasingly delusional right wing that is more than happy to literally bring guns into the political discussion. Along with the elevation of attractive airheads and not-so-attractive babbling heads whose popularity far exceed their profundity – you know who I’m talking about – it’s vital to take measure of a U.S. body politic under siege by reactionary anger, intolerance, incivility, and ignorance across the spectrum about the issues. The question as to what to do with Wall Street is also on my mind, just as it is on everyone else’s. It seems Washington isn’t really serious about doing anything meaningful. Ideas like breaking up Big Finance into bite-size banking entities get little traction; forget about reexamining our fundamental enthusiasm for “free-market” capitalism as an economic system.
Here in California, everything from the budget to the 2/3 majority vote requirement offer feasts for thought; veritable banquets of policy food available in overly generous portions. Prop. 8, that little piece of nastiness, is far from exhausted. And legalizing marijuana is also a topic in need of discussion. Thomas Elias’s recent column, for example, offers many points for further debate.
Noise and Signal
But it’s become increasingly clear over the years that while the Internet is a great enabler of communication, it’s also a great clanging machine. The task of generating a signal in the noise has become even more challenging, especially since it’s not just a question of creating the signal but also adjusting the gain. I find myself wondering at what point I’m just saying the obvious or coincidentally repeating what people more expert than I are saying with greater credibility either here or in other publications. I’m not trying to sound self-pitying.
Rather, it’s a question of wanting to do better – to have a better understanding of the issues, to write better, to better communicate ideas and generate discussion in an information soup filled with every possible opinion at every level of sophistication.
To some extent, my own eclectic interests are a bit of a conundrum. They raise the question: Is it better to know a little about a lot or a lot about a little? Of course, the proper answer is that there is a time and a place for both. Generalists and specialists both have their uses, although Buckminster Fuller was onto something when he wrote, in Spaceship Earth, “One of humanity’s prime drives is to understand and be understood. All other living creatures are designed for highly specialized tasks. Man seems unique as the comprehensive comprehender and co-ordinator of local universe affairs.”
So I don’t feel bad at all about tackling different topics. Far from it; there is too much in the world that is fascinating for me to ever be satisfied with one little part of it. But when I start feeling less like an able generalist and more like a pinball careening across a slanted table, it’s time to take inventory. Maybe the problem is one of “voice,” as in, each writer is supposed to find his or her “voice.” If that’s the case, then I’ve got a whole chorus of voices shouting over each other to make it onto the printed page. Time to break out the chair and whip.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Pisces
There it is, then. The column with a name that has always been a philosophical joke that probably amuses me more than anyone else, has reached a natural end. Between figuring how to write the column, let alone what to write about, I feel it’s time to press the delete key, restart Word, and meet my old nemesis, the blank page, again without the baggage of six years of words.
By no means am I giving up writing or my work here at The Front Page – I’ll still be reviewing films and other arts as well as running The Fashionoclast. And I am not retiring from writing columns at all; I’m merely taking an introspective break. I fully anticipate returning sometime soon (and I mean soon, not a year from now) with a new column. As to what shape that column will take, well, I’m not sure. Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned.
Frederik invites you to discuss this week’s column at his blog (www.inkandashes.net)