I use this blog to fight my jadedness. I don’t think you’re supposed to be as bitter as I am at my age. I’m 26 at the time of writing, and I’m not unique. Nestling into the twilight of their lives, our parents and grandparents underestimate the amount of spite and acid that animates their descendants. Those younger than myself (the generation concept is bullshit, but we’ll call them Gen-Z) have it even worse: we who are the youngest of the Millennials at least got to have an adolescence. I worry about Gen-Z’s great talent: we laud these youngsters for their drive, their maturity, their worldliness, and their zeal, but they will suffer for these things. The world has forced them to be this way. They’ve risen nobly to the challenge, but we’ve doomed them. It would be better if they’d been simple and happy.
But I use this blog to fight my jadedness. I realized some months ago that I couldn’t read anymore. I was more interested in computer games than reading when I was a kid, but I grew to books as a teenager and in college. The second time I read Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, I was half way through before I realized it was the second time.
A lot of us feel this pointlessness. I studied my ass off in college, because they told me it would matter. Turns out it doesn’t. The world is not in control and never has been; humans are not better than they were a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years ago. So why do anything? People tie intellectual endeavor to real-world progress too naturally. In the modern world, this seems like a product of the Enlightenment, but you can see it in the period of the Sophists in Athens in the 5th century BC. Learn, use reason, solve problems, fix the world. But if that doesn’t work, you end up like me: an over-educated, bitter anti-intellectual.
But while I don’t have the arrogance anymore to think my intelligence or literateness really means anything to anything or anyone, I don’t want to be anti-intellectual. I still love reading and love thinking about things, and love talking about ideas with my friends. I just accept–really accept, finally–that these things are idle. They will not make me a better person and they will not make the world a better place. If that can be done, only goodness can do it: the kind of goodness we feel as an imperative rather than know as a philosophy: Do good. Don’t ask why. Let your instincts tell you how.
This blog, then, is my way of trying to reclaim knowledge from, firstly, achievement, grades, pats on the head, and the smiles of impressed relatives. More importantly, those are all symptoms of the larger problem: the assumption that knowledge is laudable, or at least more laudable than goodness. If the child wishes to be intellectual, let her be so for her own sake. For others, let her be good.
To make sure I pay attention to what I read, I’ll write a little reaction after every book. It’s just an idle thing, but it’ll be nice for its own sake.
Tettix (τέττιξ) is the ancient Greek word for Cicada. Homer uses it to describe the old men around King Priam chatting. My logo was done by Marc Burnett, who is an old friend and does amazing artwork. His Instagram is @burnett.nyc.
Also, just so you’re not confused, I write my posts in the language of the book I’m talking about. Right now, that means English, Spanish, Estonian, and occasionally Ancient Greek.