Monadology in 2008, and Nominations for Comments of the Year
January 4, 2009
It’s a humbling experience to read my own writing. I find it frequently unsatisfying, hasty, and needlessly ornate. In this, it is accurately indicative of most of my thought. It’s harder to be embarrassed by my thought, however, as it is more easily propped up by illusion: I can think of myself as defined by the best of my thoughts, letting all of the shoddiness and error that goes along with them slip back into the stream of my consciousness like so many too-small rainbow trout. Writing is not a straightforward setting-to-paper of pre-existing thoughts, it’s a task of composition, of a different kind of thinking that is carefully and deliberately aggregate. I can have an experience, the germ of an idea about how to express it, and the imaginative emotion of having expressed that idea in writing all in a moment—this is what many people mean by “books written in their heads”—but it is an illusion, one that many people like myself rely on for propping up the high estimations we have of our own intelligence and creativity. Because of this, I’m trying not to give up on writing. My writing may be depressingly truth-telling in its revelation of my character, but it’s only vanity that makes truth-telling depressing. I’m grateful for the many of you that have read my writing for the years I’ve run Monadology, through both the good and the bad.
I’ve been looking back over my posts this year. I was surprised to remember that it all started with the Democratic Primaries; politics occupied my attention earlier and more fully than it ever has before. Though the relevance of the twists and turns of that season seem diminished in consequence, the aggregate result of it is no less important and marvelous now than it was then: Barack Obama secured the party nomination and then the presidency by adroitly winning over countless people, like me, not naturally inclined toward the Democratic party. And in the short time since his win, he has shown himself to be a measured, confident, cautious leader. I’m very grateful for him, honestly: I wouldn’t want to be President of the United States now for the world. I’m also grateful because I suspect that McCain wanted to be President, period. If he had to be President during a crisis like this one, so be it. Obama, though, has persuaded me that he actually wants this opportunity. As he told Jon Stewart, if you got into politics because you wanted to make a difference, now is the time to be President.
The big story of the year for me as a blogger is that despite having an unfocused, not-terribly-active blog, Andrew Sullivan linked to two (Comparing Abortion and Torture, Are Video Games Too Easy?) of my entries on the Daily Dish, one of the most highly trafficked political blogs in the world. It’s a rare (for me, unique) privilege to have a writer whom I admire as much as I do Sullivan read things that I’ve written and pay me the compliment of finding them interesting.
As usual, however, the best writing on this blog has been by commenters. The eloquence and insight of the many visitors to the site is my favorite aspect of my blog, and the quality of the comments here has gone remarked on many times by others, particularly in the many blogged responses to the two posts of mine that got unexpected exposure. As such, I’d like to open up nominations for Comments of the Year. Every comment has an anchor icon right after the date and time it was posted that is a link to the permanent URL for that comment; if you can, please provide that link along with any quoted text in your comment. I will not be selecting a winner; the idea is to create a list of particularly notable and worthwhile comments. The purpose is just to have a chance to be reminded of some of the best thoughts and arguments that have been made here, and to give the nominated commenters the pleasure of knowing that their efforts are appreciated.