A once heard it said that a good diary entry is a letter written to your future self. Using this maxim as a pole star, your can address daily happenings and the emotions they engender with a frankness impossible in, say, a letter to your mom. I keep it in mind when I write in my diary and have sometimes been surprised and pleased when I have read the entries after some intervening span of years has elapsed.
But what of blogging? Usually, blogs are hot topics for a brief time, if ever. It’s rare for me to find attention paid to old posts, even good ones that had lots of hits and likes and so forth. Saved forever, read never. Private and public. Hide in plain sight (or site, as it happens.)
Part of why I’m digging out my oldest blog posts is to see if I still agree with my old ideas. The exercise is also a trip down memory lane to glimpse into the mind of the young man I was back then. This entry is a bit of both. I had yet to experience working in a true cube farm when I wrote this (a situation since remedied several times over) but I had had enough experience to see the position on the board. Lately, too, I have read a few articles about David Graber’s observations on Bullshit Jobs, so it’s fairly topical. I guess it’s old story after all. And like many old stories, it has more than a streak of truth in it. But lord, was I cynical. I guess that’s the prerogative of youth.
November 22, 1999
All these people seem to spend so much of their lives doing things they’d rather not be doing. Has it always been so? Have the majority of the populace always been forced to do things for which they have no passion?
It seems now that even the word passion has taken on a pejorative quality. It implies imbalance and disobedience. Fit of passion, overcome by passion, passionate love affair. It’s as though passion has been designated an uncontrollable force, an all-consuming state of mind which endangers stability.
The subtle message is one of danger, and we are educated to avoid dangerous things as much as possible.
This has a blanching effect on daily life, both boring and insidiously demoralizing. White slave owners of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were quick to outlaw drums and dancing among their chattel because the slaves were passionate about these thing. The influx of such energy among the subservient was , shall we say, undesirable.
So now I stand by and watch the spirit drain from the people around me as, day after day, their lives spool away behind them leaving a trail of tepid, half-hearted action exchanged for money. Doing what? Making e-commerce shopping carts and actuary tables and sales reports and hours and hours of meeting.
Hobbies are looked at as something extra, and even those who show passion in their extracurricular activities are seen as kooks. The golf freak. The bodybuilder. The man who builds ships in a bottle. Even the hobbies are useless and transient.
What remains of their life force swirls lazily down a bathtub drain as they sit at their desks. They grow wan and even transparent, creatures of habit watching the same shows and eating the same meals, never having a moment of feeling alive, never a moment of epiphany. They are killing time, and the time they kill is the fabric of their very life.
At yet the passion remains, albeit untapped. It builds like a flood tide surging against a breakwater, rising and rising until the smallest breach appears in the bulwark and it can explode out with disproportionate force. The post-game victory celebration turns into a riot, the peaceable grasshoppers transformed into rapacious locusts overturning cars, setting fires and breaking glass. The mild father has an affair with a woman half his age. Alcoholism and violence everywhere.
Or the untapped force turns inward, the despair seeping in over years to pool around the ankles, unseen and unnoticed until one day the force is felt in full. The person gets the idea that the only direction to turn this force is at themselves because the realization of a life spent killing time is not necessarily paired with the ability to change it. It comes with anger and despondency and regret, so the crack in the damn becomes yet another of our modern suicides. All the stored energy becomes an ejector seat.
Maybe all young people feel this way. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. I really do.