I’m this guy. I’m not this guy, though I think he’s probably cooler than I am. I write, edit literary magazines, help run the local Audubon society, and have for years shied away from the idea of creating a website named after myself. I mean, I already have profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Google, I have a full lifestream at Friendfeed, I post videos at YouTube and Vimeo, photos at Flickr, etc. I even have a daily microblog of things I see from my front porch. So why this site?
Well, for one thing, I never wanted my blog Via Negativa to be primarily about me. I had a bio page there, but it made me a little uncomfortable. So now it’s here. The books page, too, is something I’ve needed for a while. But more than that: given how my online presence is split among all these sites, it seems as if it might be a useful thing to have one site that kind of pulls everything together — and isn’t under the control of Facebook or Google. It’s a declaration of web independence.
I’m an easily amused person who likes to write gloomy poems. Some of my friends accuse me of being an Eeyore. It’s not true, I tell you! While personal fulfillment has never been a high priority, contentment is. And in my middle age, I’m finding that the latter increasingly does lead to the former.
I don’t meditate, but I believe strongly in the salutary effects of empathy and attention to things outside of oneself. (For more on this theme, see my essay “Patience, young grasshopper: a beginner’s insights into attention.”) I write in large part to explore other-consciousness (if that’s not too high-falutin’ a term), which includes finding out what I think. Or should I write “I”? Because I do believe the self is provisional, a useful fiction.
Don’t be fooled by the title of my main blog, Via Negativa: I believe in science, though I’m strongly attracted to certain mystical and even shamanistic ways of looking at the world. I’m wary both of what Chogyam Trungpa called spiritual materialism and of our culture’s facile anti-materialism that leads people to say things like “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” In some ways, I think we need to become more materialistic, more engaged with the things of this world and less convinced that any reward or punishment awaits us in the next. I have deep respect for the wisdom and teachings of many faith traditions, especially regarding the practical science of how to get along as social animals, but I share with Zhuangzi and Feyerabend a deep suspicion of self-consistent knowledge systems.
The main thing that keeps me from describing myself as a Daoist is my very Western belief in the importance of love. Though even there I think we could learn from the Chinese, who have always put a premium on friendship. To me, friendship and love are indistinguishable at the highest level. And at the relatively advanced age of 45, I finally began to explore friendship at that level — a frightening and exhilarating thing.
It’s been an interesting journey. One of these days I just might have an original thought.