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Pendance Day

July 5, 2010

On the 4th of July, while contemplating the spirit of ’76, I was struck by the notion that “actions speak louder than words.”(1)  Holidays ought to be prompts for such considerations, and in this case, it occurred to me that the Founding Fathers had the gumption to take world-historical action at every turn.  They sought out and settled an unknown world in search of freedom; they took on the world’s largest superpower and military; they fought against brothers on their own shores; they instituted a radical form of government the world had not known to last for more than a few short years at a time, and even then not for millennia and never on such scale.

Whether the motivations for such actions were their enlightenment ideals or their lack of total autonomy in financial matters, the Founders are remembered because they successfully transformed belief into action.  In that Hegelian sense, if history is written by the winners(2), it is patently obvious that a winner is one who actually does turn ideas into action, and not just one who posits pleasant ideas.  Even more striking is that the Founders took such action before the formal advent of existentialism, and devoted themselves entirely to making the most of their lives on this planet, despite the fact that many of them were more proximately motivated by a sense of divine ordinance and manifest destiny.  They did not seek out castles in the sky(3), but instead built them here on earth.  And in our time, where all our gods are dead(4), when we don’t know what to do with the abyss in view, that should be a continued source of inspiration for us to take action that we can realize and enjoy here and now on this planet.(5)

In my own brief stint in the “real world”(6) thus far, I have frequently felt that my life has not been really progressing toward the accomplishment of some particular goal (at least not one that I put much–or any–consideration into).  At best, my actions have been structured to make myself happy at any given moment without much connection to the ideas, beliefs, and passions which ought to undergird those actions.  And that’s not due to a lack of ideas, beliefs, or passions, as could just as easily have been the case (and probably, depressingly, is the case for the majority of Americans(7)).  As you know, I believe that one way out of the vicious cycle of work-veg is through constant and active intellectual stimulation and exercise, which I tend to express in the form of a blog.(8)  Of course, the act of blogging isn’t nearly the translation of thought into action, at least if one has any ability or ambition worthy of exploit.  But communication of one’s thoughts and ideas is at very least one step, one form of translation, one way to exercise one’s freedoms in the achievement of some cause or purpose, especially if the desired action is to change others’ intellectual landscapes or if the act of communication is a terminal purpose.(9)

How we can fail to take that minimal step?  If it’s just inertia, we really are failing to take control of our own lives, even as we explicitly state that we live in a world with no real external constraints on our freedoms.  In that case, our laziness is our own prison and constraint on freedom.  Do we need another Declaration of Independence to realize that we were already endowed by virtue of our lack of a creator with certain unalienable rights, which include the rights to our own lives, liberties, and the pursuit of our own happiness?  If we don’t do something to exercise these rights, haven’t we abdicated these rights by our implicit consent? What would your Fathers think?(10)

Written Foibles Not to Emulate(11):
(1) Invoking a cliche in introduction to a discussion about writing.
(2) Using a cliche to validate the hypothesis, while only pithily begging the question.
(3) Making an unnecessarily veiled and hesitant reference to Machiavelli.
(4) Id. re: Nietzsche.
(5) Using italics as a substitute for conveying actual emotional emphasis.
(6) “Excessive” and “unnecessary” use of scare quotes.
(7) Overinclusive pot-shot at average Americans of reasonable integrity and intelligence, but who live less intellectually aloof lifestyles either by context-determined opportunity or overt choice.
(8) Shameless self-promotion and reference to one’s blog.
(9) Using a self-serving justification as a means of reconciling the major conflict and tension of one’s life without taking additional action.
(10) Ending a piece with a series of vague, rhetorical and unanswerable questions.
(11) Using clunky and poorly-executed footnotes with meta- and intra-narrative awareness as a means of professing near-idolatrous and unabashed respect for David Foster Wallace, which in turn succumbs to the post-modern recursive singularity that DFW worked so hard to smite, and thereby undermining the credibility of any actual understanding or respect for the man and his mission.  See also Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Da Arab permalink
    July 6, 2010 12:43 am

    (12) Id.

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