Grateful you're here, grateful for your reading and support. Below I've decided to share two things which have been on my mind the past week or so. First, a comment about fandom and politics. Second, an excerpt from the poem "You Can't," by Marilyn Kallet. I was fortunate to witness Kallet read her poems recently and I learned a lot from the experience. She does not let her lines become background noise. They are performed, given the weight of oral tradition and all that implies.
Ryan Broderick on the denial that hurricanes are real
In Garbage Day, Ryan Broderick says he thinks "right-wing conspiracies are actually, on a technical level, closer to fan fiction communities than coherent political ideologies." He says this while talking about a viral post contending that a hurricane which left a trail of massive destruction did not actually occur.
It's a powerful observation. And I think Broderick does a great job briefly outlining how it works:
...I think many of them [right-wing conspiracies] would have surfaced without Trump and there’s even a way of looking at them as the very force that produced Trump. I mean what is his core base other than the “TV always on in the suburban mcmansion” demographic. And so I’m not surprised we’re seeing increasingly nutso conspiracies like “hurricanes are made by satanists” flourish online. We live immersed in a 24-hour news cycle and spend all of our time on digital platforms that incentivize creating and sharing and watching content over all else.
A blunt and accurate truth: what is his core base other than the “TV always on in the suburban mcmansion” demographic. I guess I am not supposed to say things like this? I'm supposed to say "there exists literature which indicates there are phenomena such as 'economic anxiety' and 'fear of losing majority status' operative in the motives of conservative voters."
I mean, as an academic, I tend to think in a way not unlike seriously saying "every day we stray further from god's light." For example: once, there was Aristotle, who believed that human happiness could be had if humankind pursued virtue through the proper use of reason. Then there was Enlightenment, and the notion people could govern themselves if they embraced scientific progress. These sorts of contentions are not quite generalizations. They are strangely both overbroad and too precise, yet built on far more than vibes or lazy thinking. They do hit upon major lines of thought which were profitably developed, if not lived by.
I feel like Broderick has it right on a larger level, somewhat like the above contentions, and that I'm prone to miss the truth because the tone is more "Substack" than "500 page treatise published by Cambridge." One of the points he makes I'd like to really develop concerns the creation of content. I wonder to what degree people who devote themselves to believing anything and everything look at themselves as productive.
from Marilyn Kallet's "You Can't"
I wouldn't say there's wisdom in everyday life, but seeds of wisdom. Things which could turn out profound. So, confronted with these possibilities, I'll panic. Everything must be wisdom, directly telling me what I must know. The worst outcome is not ignorance, but not taking advantage of what is available. Then being publicly mistaken and humiliated. As you can imagine, this attitude makes it difficult to work with propositions requiring extensive thought. Propositions like the horoscope Marilyn Kallet shares, at once both wild and thoughtful:
My horoscope says, "You can't find love
by seeking it,
so go create
Sure, would you like a side
of Aeolian harp strings with that?
(from Marilyn Kallet's "You Can't")
The horoscope she quotes means to be practical advice for the lovesick. "You can't find love / by seeking it." You can't get it that way, not right now. To be sure, the stars will change and so will the advice. Still, if you're frustrated trying to find someone, try making beautiful things for a small while.
When you make beauty, will you find love? Maybe, maybe not. Your creative efforts should result in nicer stuff around the house. Kallet expresses appropriate cynicism about even that: "would you like a side / of Aeolian harp strings...?" Creation is labor, and labor does not necessarily yield aesthetic glory. Labor is labor, mired in processes often standardized and demeaning.
Perhaps Kallet's horoscope is not hopeless. I remember a wedding columnist from decades ago saying love was as regular as the subway. She meant you don't need to fight especially hard to find it. You don't need to do anything to be loved, except be open to it. Maybe not even that. She wrote for a prestigious paper and was established in circles where encountering a potential partner was more possible than not. I'm not sure hers is entirely trustworthy advice. In general, trying to create beauty makes more sense to me.
Maybe you don't need to fight hard to find love, but a lot of us struggle to be seen. How can you be loved if no one notices you exist? Creating beauty or finding your voice are essential skills, prerequisite not only for any hope of success, but also for friendship, relationships, and love. I'd go as far as to say creating beauty is how a lot of us survive. When we're not seen, we need to bear witness to our own actions. We need to affirm our intent when others render us invisible. Art is one way of achieving this.
I guess I'd like some Aeolian harp strings, then. I mean, Kallet's right in her immediate response. There's something ridiculous about "go create beauty" as a default response to a problem. I think of parents pushing their kids into massive undertakings with a "let them find out" attitude instead of taking the time to explain why they see the world the way they do. "Go write a trumpet concerto" is silly, but "go pay for college on your own" is breaking families and society. "Go create beauty" is a cop-out: where there should be dialogue, where there should be understanding, there is instead a void. Still, beauty is so necessary the horoscope weirdly works. Where, exactly, does openness to what we need come from?