The Rule

Scott and I did a podcast on the Rule of St. Benedict. This is a governing document for monasteries, and might seem an odd choice for a "Great Books" podcast. I think it’s important historically, if not for its literary merits, because monasteries civilized and educated Europe. But it’s also important because of the notion that you need a rule.

Think of a typical gig-worker’s day. Wake up, stumble downstairs, feed your caffeine addiction, screw around on the internet, learn what the daily outrage is, decide to do some work for one of your jobs, eat lunch, have more coffee, do some more gig work, check out instagram, gig work, eat, netflix, work until 2am, fall asleep, and repeat. Unstructured and ad-hoc. This is no way to live. Mishima complains in Sun and Steel about how he was a creature of the night before he discovered the rule of weightlifting. Perhaps you are similar? Living an unstructured bug life?

Try adopting a rule. You could borrow from Benedict if you like. The monks would pray seven times a day and in the middle of the night. The texts are mostly from the biblical prayers called psalms. This gives an immediate structure to the whole day. You know what you’re going to be doing at dawn and at midday and at evening, no matter what else is going on. You sleep at appointed hours, eat at appointed hours. Maybe you could do twice a day instead of seven times a day, but pick a structure and stick to it. You will thrive like a well-tended sheep or chicken.

You need structure! Go to bed, wake up, have specific things that you do at specific times. If you are secular, perhaps you wouldn’t read the psalms. On the other hand, so many of them are complaint psalms that I think they could be usefully prayed by atheists. If you don’t want to adopt a religious rule, fine, but adopt some rule. You’ll be happier.

(Consider what would happen to animals if we made them live on the random schedule many of us adopt!)

Content Creator or Thought Thinker?

When did thoughts become "content"?

I am a "content creator". I co-host two podcasts, write this blog, and contribute occasional pieces elsewhere. I produce an unending content stream. I am producing product for you to consume, right?

I also produce content every morning, but I flush it.

Calling it ‘content’, or sometimes ‘information’ (and thus ‘misinformation’) is to get wrong what it is that I do. I think, and then I communicate my thoughts to you. I am not a content-creator. I am a thinker.

Thinking is not easy. It’s harder than wrestling. One tries to see the patterns in the chaos, or tries to bring patterns into the chaos. Thinking as combat! I’m exhausted after I do it. To have such work reduced to ‘content’ is offensive to me, but more than that, it’s false. Thinking is the highest activity of the highest part of a human, as Aristotle says. It’s the best of our best! Thinking is much too glorious to be reduced to a content-stream.

Consider replacing the word ‘content’ or ‘information’ with ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’ whenever you see it. You’ll notice that streams of something can be rightfully restricted, as my morning content stream is directed into the sewer. But what about thoughts? "Misinformation" becomes "mis-thinking". Does it make you think twice about restricting it?

To paraphrase Nietzsche: I don’t want you to consume content, I want you to think!