As many of you know, I’ve taken an “idiocy sabbatical” by which I’ve resolved to abstain from delving into issues of politics and public affairs and public gossip and other media bullshit.
This has involved, in large part, remaining off Twitter, and avoiding internet discussions of political issues, political candidates, scandals, and Outrages Of The Day. Doing so has opened up a refreshing amount of space in my mind for things like my professional life and personal happiness to flourish. The extent to which I have sought momentary and idle amusement by way of such conflicts appears to roughly equal the extent to which things that really don’t concern me all that much cloud my ability to attain that state of existence Aristotle called “eudamonia.”
Of late, my principal challenge has been marrying this abstention with some of the behind-the-scenes work we’re going to improve this website, which inherently involves discussing public issues. I’ve navigated this by not reading or editing articles addressing such issues, which are usually fairly easy to identify from their titles. I am grateful for my fellow collaborators at the editorial level, and coming to grips with the fact that changes in the works will probably increase the amount of behind-the-scenes work I put in to maintaining this place. But it is clear enough to me that I can’t do this sabbatical thing forever and stay on as an editor here, because it’s too difficult to, for instance, monitor discussion threads for violations of the commenting policy without digging substantively into what’s being discussed. Not to mention the “editing” part of the job.
I’ve felt a little bit guilty about not doing a first-Monday-in-October post profiling the SCOTUS docket for the year, but that is just going to have to wait until my sabbatical concludes. Even so, my general take is that there three tiers of cases: foremost, Evenwel v. Abbott; then, a trio of death penalty cases, and below those, “everything else.” I’m grateful, though, that Michael Cain has done an in-depth look into a FERC case (now one of three FERC cases!) that I would probably have thought less interesting than he did and pleased that his perspective is out there in the mix.
Fortuitously, on the day my sabbatical will expire, November 7, a beer tasting festival will occur in my community. A fine day to celebrate the end of my “vacation.” I’m looking forward to brewing beer with my father this weekend while he visits; I’ve enjoyed football and read history books; I’ve spent evenings sharing a meal and a bottle of homebrew with my wife and dogs; I’ve written offline projects for work and personal fulfillment; I’ve tried to renew gubernatorial and judicial interest in my own efforts to advance my career.
My house is clean. I can recognize my good fortune in escaping the local disaster of flash floods and mudslides after a 1,000-year rainfall event. My blood pressure is back at normal levels without medication (although weight loss and regular exercise have something to do with that as well, I’m sure). While one can’t turn away from public affairs forever, it may well behoove folks to learn this much from my example: there is no happiness or advantage to be found in getting upset over the Outrage Of The Day. Learn how to recognize it for what it is, and then treat it with the casual dismissal that it deserves. Whatever trivial thing people are upset about today is no more directly impactful on your life than the struggles of Pizza Rat, and while they may bring short-term pleasure, they are not capable of producing actual happiness.
Which is to say, avoiding that class of media information known as “bullshit” won’t make you happy, by itself, but immersing yourself in it appears to be inconsistent with a state of being that can be described with the use of words like “happiness,” “thriving,” and “fulfillment.”
Image by WindRiver