As I mentioned in last night’s potpourri, I felt happier a couple of days ago than I can remember being in a very long time, and even a couple of days later with a few papers left to grade, I’m still feeling pretty darned chipper.
At the same time, when I look at my social media feeds, I’m confronted by the palpable anger of a polarized (and ever-more-polarizing) culture. The overwhelming majority of the anger (on both sides) is politically driven, and since I decided to retreat into the desert a few years ago, to become something close to an idiot in the original sense (from the Greek idiotes, someone who prefers to live privately, without involving himself in the affairs of the polis), looking at this stuff leads me to suspect that I chose wisely.
Still, I read a variety of stuff, and some of it is concerned with the polis — I may no longer choose to be of the world, but I do remain in it. I think part of my retreat was because whatever satisfaction I find in life won’t be political, but emotional and spiritual. In that respect, I suppose I’m still a man of the Right, because I still see the government more as a necessary evil, something to limit, than as a desirable good, to be invited into more of our lives. The less that my life must intersect with the coercive power of the State, the happier I suspect I’m likely to be.
And that brings us, I think, to Kevin Williamson’s column at NRO today. He’s looking at the same inclination toward fanaticism that I see when I look around, and like me (and like Eric Hoffer), he sees this polarization as symptomatic of a deeper, spiritual problem. Hence, the Quote of the Day:
Political fanaticism is not rooted in ideology. It is the hollow clanging sound that social life makes when banging up against an empty soul.
He goes on to say:
[…] The angry partisan cannot believe that life is good, because he must then ask himself: If life is good, then why am I not enjoying it? Why do I feel so alone, so frustrated, and so meaningless?
I can’t answer those questions for other people, nor can they answer it for me. But I can hope that they can find something in their lives that brings them a day like I had Friday, and I can hope they’re alert enough to notice.
And now, to the papers, and for you, a bit of Neil Innes.