We’ve passed the half year mark. Twenty-seven issues of the Weekly Features Post and still rambling.
This WFP benefits from the three-day weekend. We’re often rushed to put together the WFP, especially during the frenzied month of May, but this time we were able to write it on Memorial Day. It doesn’t mean it’s better than the other WFPs, just that Eric Scheske didn’t lose any more hair trying to get it on the site.
Eric and his family attended the Memorial Day parade. It’s a pitiful little display: one band, a handful of old soldiers, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, an old car. The crowd along the street is sparse.
Eric’s family attends every year. The little kids get a kick out of it, but we mostly attend the parade out of respect: for those who served and for those who organize it. It takes about 45 minutes out of our day. That’s not asking much.
Of course, the local newspaper said it would start at 10:00, but it didn’t really start until 10:30, so the whole thing took over an hour. Frustrating waste of time, that extra half hour, but we lived. . .
Site traffic is doing well, but it could always do better. Through last weekend, our daily visitor count during May averaged approximately 180, which is up from about 145 in April. That’s good, but anything you can do to spread the TDE word is appreciated.
If someone asks what TDE is about, you can lift the answer from the first question on our FAQs page. We added the first question Sunday evening. Eric was drinking Chardonnay on the front porch, when he suddenly realized that the site doesn’t tell new visitors about the blog’s subject matter. So we added this question:
What’s this blog about?
Pop culture, religion, history, literature, philosophy, humor, and drinking–usually from a Catholic perspective, but in a manner that non-Catholics find inviting.
For you corporate organizational types, consider this our Mission Statement.
Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish. Marcus Aurelius on priestly celibacy (not really, but it fits)
More Anonymous Existentialist Ramblings
Born in 1966, I hit puberty as Jimmy Carter wound-down his presidency and I became an adult under Ronald Reagan. I spent a lot of time partying and acting ridiculously during high school and college, but toward the end of my college years I got a serious streak. It was 1987; I was a junior at the University of Michigan, and I started reading everything I could get my hands on, from economics to politics to philosophy.
It was a shotgun approach, with a strong emphasis on literature. I would go to the Dawn Treader Used Bookstore in Ann Arbor and buy for fifty cents paperbacks of modern classics, like All Quiet on the Western Front and A Streetcar Named Desire. I also bought cheap paperback copies of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, as well as paperbacks by Camus.
I’m not sure why I turned to Salinger and Camus, but I think it’s because I had a presumption of sorts that they were on the “cutting edge.” I had the vague impression that these men, especially Camus, were writers who dealt with modern “things,” and were men I needed to understand in order to be current in intellectual and artistic patterns. Based on conversations with people now and my Internet surfing, this still seems to be the case today, nearly twenty years later.
It’s odd that these men should still be deemed to be on the cutting edge. Camus died in 1960 in a car accident; Salinger “died” to the literary world in 1969 by reclusing himself in Cornish, New Hampshire. When I started my reading rush, neither man had published anything in over twenty years (Camus’ works came out in the 1940s and ‘50s; Salinger’s only two novels, Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, came out in 1951 and 1961, respectively). But I turned to these men intuitively, and I’ve continued to turn to them, probably because I enjoy them, but also because no one has taken their place.
The existentialist—disaffected and pessimistic—philosophy these men represented was the last great popular wave of thought. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the works of the French existentialist thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre, were popularized by Camus’ novels and spread like a computer virus through American campuses. Likewise, Salinger, though not an expressly existentialist writer, produced an existentialist-type figure in the brooding Holden Caulfield whose cool style of disaffection became intensely popular at about the same time as Camus’ novels.
Since then, there has been no popular intellectual wave. There was a political wave in the 1960s; there was an inane wave in the 1970s; there was an economic wave in the 1980s; there was a technology wave in the 1990s. But there has been no philosophical wave, so existentialism stands there, old enough for social security, but still the baby of the philosophical family.
“In the totalist order of scientism, the tragic sense of life would be eliminated, together with tragedy, comedy, history, Shakespeare—and hope. . . [L]ife would be too unutterably boring to be worth living; but, death from ‘natural causes’ having been abolished by compulsory cryogenic interment, the final escape-hatch would be sealed. Christian doctrine has a word for that condition: Hell.” Russell Kirk
“I need not set out at any length, I hope, the intellectual deficiencies of the plutocracy . . . It is badly educated, it is stupid, it is full of low-caste superstitions and indignations, it is without decent traditions or informing vision; above all, it is extraordinarily lacking in the most elemental independence and courage. Out of this class comes the grotesque fashionable society of our big towns. . . It shows all the stigmata of inferiority—moral certainty, cruelty, suspicion of ideas, fear.” H.L. Mencken
“Pride in craftsmanship is well explained by saying that to labor is to pray, for conscientious effort to realize an ideal is a kind of fidelity. The craftsman of old did not hurry, because the perfect takes no account of time and shoddy work is a reproach to character. But character itself is an expression of self-control, which does not come of taking the easiest way.” Richard Weaver
The Last Word
Elaqueate: to free from a noose or other entanglement. “Will someone elaqueate the U.S. from its global entanglements?”