I’ve been putting up regular content here at the JBE since 2012 when I first launched this site. The primary purpose of creating this WordPress platform (my first time designing my own website, btw) was launching my personal brand. At the time, given what was happening—basically, getting down-sized—plus, I was reading Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and others; personal branding seemed to be the proper exit ramp to free agent nation.
The most important aspect of the JBE now looks like it’s been centralizing where I blog. That’s one reason why I chose to include one as part of the website in the first place. At the time, my plan was to write about reinvention and other things central to my personal brand.
With all that’s transpired over the past three years, the blog remains the primary reason I keep the site up and running. My efforts the past year to reinvigorate my own freelance writing is the reason why I also maintain another site where I post my freelance writing clips and keep my online portfolio up-to-date—something that seems like it would be a requisite for a free agent writer these days. The personal brand thing—I’m not as bullish on that anymore.
Apparently some of the topics that I blog about, either regularly or semi-regularly, are confusing and even inconsistent. At least that’s according to a reader who emailed me not long ago. I always appreciate hearing from readers, so let me take a few minutes to see if I can offer some additional clarity about my blogging and the things I choose to write about.
He had concerns that my regular digs at the laziness of others in ferreting out information seemed to be inconsistent with my calls to find ways for people to come together and invest time personally and in face-to-face interaction (rather than via their smartphone screens). Personally, I didn’t see these as mutually exclusive of one another, but let me see if I can bring some additional context to those two topics.
Ten years ago, I decided to empower myself by investing in my own education in an autodidactic fashion—not by enrolling in some cookie-cutter academic program designed to stamp out another little conformist robot—but by reading 30-60 books a year. I can understand that my occasional intimations that Americans resemble lemmings in their need to rush along with the rest of the pack or herd towards their own doom, might seem overly harsh on the surface. Then, again, not choosing to cheerlead for the techno-utopian solution to all of our problems, and my recent carping about Google, and their attempts to make us dumber than we already were as a cohort, by spending too much time checking our screens for the latest new thing someone was doing on Facebook or Twitter, this seems to fit nicely alongside my other posts promoting community and rebuilding real-life social networks were contradictory.
Here’s the thing—not wanting to be one of the sheeple led around by a ring in the end of my nose isn’t always a walk in the park, and often, it’s solitary work. Not only does it require the commitment to learn each and every day—there’s also the unlearning that is part of deprogramming—leading to relearning. But, I’m not complaining.
You see, here’s something I’ve finally learned, and it only took me about half my life to get there. Pretty much everything about how I expected the world to work and be has changed for me, most of it over the past decade of reinvention via self-education. Of course, this also introduced dissonance into my life. But, I now recognize dissonance as a good thing, not something to run away from, or paper over with happy talk and malarkey, which is what I was taught to do growing up by the designated liars facilitating my co-option in school and later, the work place, which might be where the most effective psychological manipulation takes place.
In the past, lacking answers, I tilted from one ideology to another. Over time, I started to figure out that being aware of a whole range of different things and frames upon which to evaluate what I was experiencing as my own personal reality was helpful. Opening myself up to varying ideas and alternative narratives, I found some that were more effective than others in explaining the world that I was living in and experiencing.
Here are just a few names of people that I obtained useful information from, by reading their writing, or spending time at their websites/blogs this week:
James Howard Kunstler/Clusterfuck Nation
Morris Berman/Dark Ages America
Catherine Tumber (I’m reading Small, Gritty, and Green right now; I’ll have more to say about it in the next few weeks)
David Graeber (always good for skewering a few sacred cows)
The Baffler Blog
The American Conservative/Rod Dreher
The Celtics Blog
Of course, one can spend too many waking hours on the interwebs these days. It’s nice to have interactions with real people, too, face-to-face.
My sister (who also has a darn good blog that I read religiously) and I will have our weekly salon over coffee and cake on Saturday. My wife, Mary, who puts up with my intensity and also knows when to say, “Mr. B, that’s enough; let’s go for a run, a bike ride, or a walk on the beach.” And my son, who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to. We got to hang out in Boston and see the Celtics play their worst game of the year Sunday night. He also calls me to let me know he’s fine and I don’t need to worry when things happen in his neck of the woods that might cause me to be concerned. Just hearing him say, “Dad, just called to say I’m okay,” sets me at ease and allows me to go tilting forward with a bit less stress.
Other than that, my phone doesn’t ring too much these days.
Oh, and that title? It’s from the “I Love Lucy” show, one of my favorite classic television shows.