Every year just about this time
I celebrate it with a rhyme.
— Kurtis Blow
At the end of the decade I wrote the following for my intention for the 2020s:
My intention is to dramatically reduce my consumption and learn to live simpler and cleaner. I aim to produce rather than to interact. I intend to cap my martial education by practicing BJJ and learning to hunt with a rifle. I want to start my own company with venture capital. I want to buy and build a Porsche. I want to marry off my daughters, and bury my parents with the least amount of fuss possible. I want to produce a more coherent set of writings and video. I am aiming for completion. I expect to retire never. I want to visit southeast Asia and Tokyo. I'd like to get to London again and see if I really want to live in Texas. I want to begin composing and performing music again. I will try guitar and piano. I would like to correspond with my intellectual heroes and gain some academic associations. I would like to build my final audiophile system. I'd like to improve my horsemanship and go on a horseback vacation.
So far it’s working out OK. I didn’t put together some explicit resolutions for 2020 but my path since 2010 has been pretty clear and despite some rocky years, I’m on the plus side of everything. I do have explicit resolutions for the coming year. One thing I remember pledging last time was that I wanted to read fewer books. There is a great deal less intellectual ambulance chasing I’m interested in, and I’m learning how to write stories and criticism without falling into the rapids of the national news cycle. I’ve known those rivers and I don’t find their frothy waters to be anything more than treacherous.
What I don’t particularly feel like doing is compiling a ‘Best Of’ for 2020. It feels too consumerish. Like a list of cool kid goodies you must consume ‘unless you’ve been living under a rock.’ Really? I’ve been saying all year that I read Michael Osterholm and what good has that done? I’ve been expecting half a million deaths from COVID in the US, and I understand out strategic deficit in threat assessment. So there has been nothing for me to whine about. I kept cutting and pasting his authoritative views. It hasn’t changed my vulnerability to the madness of crowds. It wasn’t an entertaining book, and I guess millions of people won’t read it to save their own lives. What am I supposed to say about that? “Did you see Hamilton on Disney+?” I said that on the day I cared.
It bears repeating, for stoics particularly, that you should be measuring yourself against your prior self, and benchmarking where you stand in relation to your own former strengths and weaknesses. Doing this necessitates self-evaluation which is wholly different than self-regard and self-esteem. I am reminded of the jerk who sits at the table with his first date completing a 5 minute monologue. “Enough about me. What do you think about me?” He should have done that at home in front of the responsibility mirror and then been prepared to listen.
I can say for certain that I have greatly missed listening to friends and strangers, giving the head bob and not needing to speak up. Here in my lonesome home office is good for my writing, but not so healthy for my self. The self needs testing in public. It needs the stress of spontaneous interaction with the unknown. Here at home, we know everything and who would dare disrespect us in our own home? Out there is another matter.
Isn’t it interesting how people have showed themselves this year? Is it a crisis? Do I respect advice? Can I differentiate it from speculation? Do I take perverse action in response? Does this confirm everything I’ve been trying to tell you? Is this a learning opportunity? Have I been awake? These are some of the questions of self-evaluation that the changes in the outside world should prompt us to consider, and then we should honestly assess what to do properly in response. We’re all in the black hole of human uncertainty. Let’s take some rational steps, not just ask if we’ve consumed the top entertainments of the year.