Here's a quote, attributed retired Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank: "Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together." The attitude behind that quote has caused all manner of mischief, but I think the sentiment is reasonably construed as a way of understanding the political process. When the people who earn the most votes make some decision, we can reasonably describe the political process as achieving some kind of consensus. Politics is a way of deciding to collectively do things.
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15 years ago, I sat in a group of b-school students trying to explain to our skeptical professor that social media was useful. He wasn't just a curmudgeon: a successful entrepreneur (oil, business schools), he wasn't interested in fluff but in what actually works. We tried to talk about how views would lead to engagement which would lead to ... leads? The case was weak. We sounded like those social media mavens giving talks to your chambers of commerce through the late aughts and 2010s.
In January of 2022, I skied a new hill for the first time in at least ten years. Our home mountain, Sugarloaf, is a crown jewel of east coast skiing. For the first years we skied there, I was living in DC, and just getting ski days in was a feat. Since moving back to Massachusetts, skiing has been primarily about getting my kids into the sport. Staying at our home mountain, especially a great one, made sense. But then, I finally took advantage of our access to Loon Mountain, in New Hampshire, and skied a few day trips with some friends.
When a non-religious person hears the word testimony, they think about courtroom settings: the rat's testimony puts the capo away. When people like me hear it, the reaction is visceral. Testimony? I cringe. My physical discomfort comes from one of two scenarios, both from church events.
Here's what I'm doing today: taking a walk. It's as pure as it sounds. Almost.
Earlier this year I read the fascinating little book by Jenny Odell How to Do Nothing: Resting the Attention Economy.
Since coming back from the time away, I've been noodling on some ideas. I think there might be two longer-form pieces in my drafts that will see the light of day, or at least the thin blue light of the internet. Writing them has been tough. It could be because I'm reading Raymond Carver and John Updike and they set a high bar, or, more charitably, that I'm trying to say something a little more complex than my usual. Either way, the drafts are beginning to linger.
I've just returned to the normal routine after a 30-day sabbatical from work. It was great to completely disconnect from my job: no Gmails, Slacks, or Zooms. For two weeks of the sabbatical, I kept my normal information habits: Gmail and podcasts and reading online. Not working opened up even more time for this sort of thing and my brain craved it. During our annual ski week, most of my morning checks of the snow conditions turned into email and news reading. At the halfway mark, my sabbatical brain felt and awful lot like my working brain. It was taking on slightly less information, but in the same methods and at the same pace.
For the last month, I've been on a sabbatical from work and have used the time to travel. We spent a week in Maine, skiing, about ten days in Tennessee and the Dominican Republic, and I managed a solo sojourn to Vermont for some skiing. My daily life is local: I can often manage a full week within a few hundred yards of my house; this series of journeys changes that pace!
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