Authorial reserve

I’m not the biggest Cormac McCarthy fan, but I saw a reference that he would turn down requests to discuss his works on college campuses, saying that he had said all he wanted to in the books themselves. “Everything he had to say was there on the page.”

This authorial reserve is rare these days. I’ve met a few authors, W. P. Kinsella, who was pleasant, Lois McMaster Bujold, who simply read from her novels, and Roger Zelazny. I also met Alasdair McIntyre, but I’m only counting fiction writers. Zelazny was the most interesting. I was a young man at the time working my way through the Amber novels, and I mentioned how it would be good for him to have a synopsis of what had gone before in front of each novel, since I was thoroughly confused. He smiled, said “Good!” and signed my book.

If you are a writer of fiction, your art is in the book. Let it speak for itself. As a counter-example, see J. K. Rowling, who can’t stop retconning her own work. Leave it alone! Writing is an elliptical art, leaving as much unsaid as said. The reader, at least the good reader, makes most of the experience of the book by him or herself. The gaps that the author leaves are where you come in. If the author tells you too much what the books mean, the experience is ruined.

In addition, as Socrates complained in the Apology, often the poets don’t really know what they mean anyway. The greatness of the book exists in spite of them, not because of them. “Rage, sing Muse the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles!” The Muses are real, and they don’t like it when you try to peek behind the curtain.

By the way, Kinsella’s works are nice, Bujold is worth reading, and Zelazny reached a peak in Lord of Light.

The recovery of property rights

It has become trendy these days to say “it’s just property,” when malefactors engage in organized theft. After all, there’s insurance! Is property worth a life?

When you attempt to homestead, even to the small extent I’m doing it, you realize that this is the wrong way to put it. Property is life. It’s the way in which I’m getting my food, and if you came and took it from me, you’d be stealing my food, which is another way of stealing my life. This may be less evident in the modern deracinated economy, but it’s still true. The 5th and 6th commandments are connected.


Points of View or Thoughts

“People should not have points of view, but thoughts!”


–Nietzsche, Friedrich


Do you have points of view? Are you part of a team, following an ideology, thinking the same way that everyone else on your team thinks? If this is the case, it’s likely that you aren’t thinking at all. You aren’t trying to reason from true premises to a true conclusion, but are adopting conclusions of people you like. Cialdini remarks in Influence that people will follow authority because, for the most part, it’s a more efficient way to live than to think. It usually works pretty well. But it’s not thinking.

You are familiar with the NPC meme, right? The crowd of grey people who say the same things at the same time? Don’t be too hard on them, since this is the way most people act throughout most of life. It’s like tying your shoes. You don’t stop to think about it because that would be inefficient. You just do it the same way every day, rather than reasoning out the best way to fasten the laces on your shoes.

Why would you do the inefficient act of thinking? According to Aristotle, it’s because of wonder. For Socrates, it’s because of eros. Some of us love wisdom, are philosophers, who find joy in understanding the truths of things, the causes, even the first causes. But such people are rare. Most of us just have points of view.