Thursday, April 08, 2004

Confessions of a Test Particle

Maybe a lot of people buy lottery tickets in the expectation of winning, but I suspect a fair number bet merely as an aid to daydreaming. Once you’ve bet, you don’t need to imagine a separate chain of circumstances that leads to waking up rich. Winning the lottery on a given occasion is much less likely than having a stroke during the same period of time, but at least it’s definitely on the sunny side of possibility and that fact economizes on the energy needed to fantasize. Writing a blog has a rather similar rationale. I don’t expect to be read very often or by very many, but the fact that any given message might find a reader is meaningful to me. The hobby does have a downside, however. Indeed, it can be extremely corrupting.

Writing is a blind trade where seller and buyer do not normally meet. But that doesn’t preclude an element of negotiation. Over reasonable stretch of time, the message maker learns what the message receiver is willing or able to hear. It turns out that the market for surprising ideas is exceedingly small, though the universal resistance to anything substantively new is masked by an insatiable desire for superficial variety. It would be quite unjust for a writer to think badly of his audience because of this fact. The writer, after all, shares with his readers the same reluctance to hear when it is his turn to listen. Unwillingness to hearken is an ineluctable aspect of the primal stupidity (Urdummheit) that rules the human condition. Besides, in this instance, it is the writer who displays the most blameworthy sloth. Just writing down something simply because it is true, profound, and apropos is a very self-indulgent practice. All the art and, lord knows, the effort, lies in mudding the message and flattering the readers as necessary. In this respect, a virtuous writer is like a moral politician, who isn’t really moral at all unless he compromises his principles enough to give them effect.

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