Professionalism, fragmentation, moral minimalism and personal drama

As some are aware—and a few more than others—I have been seriously stressed by some self-inflicted personal/professional drama lately.

I tried to say something that I feel very strongly about. I took my time and re-read and revised over an eight day period. Shortly after it was released into the wild one of my friends, who was doing the right thing by me, let me know that it might not be perceived as I meant it to be. I had to agree that they were right and I pulled it. Of course, anyone who is subscribed to my blog got a chance to see it via RSS, but at least the live link just 404s.

It is, of course, thanks to search engine technology, still available for those who know how. And it turns out that it sits quite high in a very basic, current affairs-type, search. <sigh> Another lesson learned, perhaps. Although, since the initial intent was to put it out there, I am unsure what lesson I was supposed to learn. [Thankfully, a day later it is quickly sliding down.]

I am currently in the process of rewriting that post with the help of a few wonderful people. Why? Well, I was just going to let it go. I figured I had had my say, even if few actually saw it. I decided to wait and see what happened after pulling it. A few days later someone responded to me that it was “a great critique!” I then wrote a semi-veiled post to explain what happened.

At that point, I began to get some wonderful feedback, much of which came by personal email. I also had a few direct conversations with physically local people. It turns out more people than I imagined have serious issues with what passes for professionalism in our field, and more generally. Of course, the reasons for this vary, and few are for the reasons I espouse. But the feeling is there nonetheless. Something needs to be said.

Thus, I must say something. My hope is to start a conversation. Here. There. Everywhere. Privately. Publicly. In blogs. In professional journals. Wherever. Whenever. I do not want to be the moderator. I only want to be a spark. And a participant.

Just what is “professionalism,” particularly in the context of libraries? What is it as a concept and ideal? And what is it as it is embodied in practice? The second is the most important, by far. And they most certainly are not the same thing. Embodied practice rarely reaches to the level of principle or ideal, even though we ought to try.

There has been a lot of conversation in the biblioblogosphere lately about several topics that are highly related to this subject. Group think, over-niceness of librarians, who you represent when you write, personal behavior/bullying, encouraging participation/conversation and so on. There has also been much discussion of “professional experience” on the AUTOCAT discussion list lately, particularly in the area of job descriptions and also “professional” vs. paraprofessional.

One of the participants in the Five Weeks To A Social Library project wrote about separating the personal from the professional within social software. This is definitely something that belongs in the discussion of professionalism. T. Scott Plutchak responded with a lovely post at his own blog about fragmentation, something I have written about extensively here. It is also one of my main reasons for what I do here. Fragmentation accounts for why I mix so much personal and professional, for why I only have one blog vs. two, and for the name of my first blog, “…the thoughts are broken….”

Before you read any further, I highly encourage you to read T. Scott’s post. “Trying To Be Complete.” I hope to someday meet this gentleman whose writing I so admire, but whom I admire (and did long before he wrote this) more for his wholeness and honesty.

The challenge, with all of these audiences, is to not let myself be stifled in what I have to say. There’s a simple rule of thumb — can I stand behind every word I write, no matter who might come across it?

I’m no longer looking for “balance” because that still seems to imply managing two poles. I don’t have a “personal” or “professional” side. I strive to be complete.

I do not have the time or energy to do a lot of synthesis of my previous writings right now. This is due both to illness and also to the volume of my previous writings on this subject. Thus, I am going list some links where I wrote about some of the topics listed in the title of this post, all of which have to do with professionalism in my mind. Maybe some of this will resonate with you, maybe not.

Either way, whether I am involved or not, my hope in exposing all of this (again) and in a concentrated form is to start some conversations. It is not that I don’t understand what constitutes professionalism in our field. It is that I disagree with it and find it highly dangerous, precisely because it is so fragmenting, amongst other things.

I have already asked you to read T. Scott Plutchak’s post, “Trying To Be Complete.”

I have also linked above to my most current statement on some of these issues, “if i had sense, i guess i’d fear this” from 1 Feb 2007.

I want to start with my first two blog posts from my 1st blog (now moved here) as they hint at some of this:

So, what is this about, and for?” 29 Jan 2005

Putting oneself into one’s writing” 29 Jan 2005

I think I will continue in a chronological vein. Please feel free to comment on any of these posts; I do not believe I have turned off commenting on any of my posts. I will try to add some comments to cue you in as to why I chose these posts, as some of the titles and main topics may seem like odd places to find what I’m going on about. That is because I tend to make what might be to some people odd connections. So, let me connect away for you….

Blogging as Metaphor” 9 May 05

While it may not have been my explicit intention when I started this blog back in January, it is now one of my primary intentions, which I am now stating publicly, to use this blog as a means to stitch my life together into a coherent whole—past, present, future, academic interests, hobbies, family, friends, enemies, loves, hates, desires, fears, hopes, thoughts, wishes.

Please click through to the above post and follow the link to post that triggered it; far more eloquent than I can ever be.

Baumgartner on moral minimalism” 9 May 05

This entry is part of my final exam for a grad sociology class on “lived morality” and “Discuss(es) moral minimalism as Baumgartner describes it as a kind of ordinary vice.” I have stated that I feel that moral minimalism is rampant in our profession. This might be a good place to start. Better yet would be to read Baumgartner’s amazing book which is cited at the end of the post.

Moral minimalism, and the fragmentation and depersonalization that feed and are fed by it lead to moral indifference. This, coupled with the belief that moral responsibility reside with the state and its’ institutions lead to the lack of moral judgment on the part of the individual. If one will or can not exercise moral judgment, they can not act morally. Thus, moral minimalism is an ordinary vice.

Can we do away with subject headings? Only if we keep ‘Moral minimalism and libraries’” 29 May 05

Truth be told, this rant was my first take on this article, which is sort of a shame because it is one of my favorite articles. It is certainly my favorite from any ACRL publication. This is an article that is firmly in my toolkit and I will pull it out faster than you can ask, “Can we…?” I have given a full-scale class presentation on this article alone, and have used it in several other presentations and a paper or two. You also can’t begin to imagine how utterly furious I was when Karen Calhoun completely misrepresented this article’s conclusions to her own end in the Calhoun Report. But it is one of my finest expositions of moral minimalism in our profession, and as much as I wish I had done better by this article at some point on my blog, I stand by it.

Please do not misunderstand me! I am most definitely not arguing for violence and rancor among library staff, or suburbanites. Neither was Baumgartner. And yes, civility and forbearance can be virtues. But they are not always so. There are other socio-historical methods of resolving conflict besides aggression or avoidance. Read Baumgartner and see if some of what she says doesn’t apply to libraries. I admit my view is colored by my time in a highly dysfunctional library. It can’t help but be. I am also aware that there are libraries that are not as dysfunctional. But I would submit that they are so because they are not engaged in the avoidance behavior elicited by moral minimalism, while still remaining civil and forbearant.

That is why I believe the person making the suggestion should be identified. Not for the purpose of public ridicule, bu to foster discussion rather than avoidance. And yes, you might argue the topic hasn’t been avoided—it was brought out in a major professional publication. And you would be correct. But I would still maintain that this sort of behavior is a form of avoidance, and as such is a form of professional moral minimalism.

Todorov on Totalitarianism” 16 Aug 05

Another question from the same grad sociology final. Here is the assignment statement: Discuss Todorov’s theory of totalitarianism and how it accounts for the widespread use of concentration camps and for related crimes in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Interpret this statement of Todorov’s: “Totalitarianism reveals what democracy leaves in the shadows – that at the end of the path of indifference and conformity lies the concentration camp.” Distinguish between moralism and the moral judgment that is a component of moral virtue. Discuss the lessons to be learned from the concentration camps about moral values.

Now, “What,” you might ask “do concentration camps and totalitarianism have to do with libraries?” While I admit that it seems a bit extreme, let me pull out a few lines and see if they don’t fit some things in our profession and, in particular, life in the academy (for anyone without tenure).

This evil was banal in that it was committed by people who were “terrifyingly normal.”

The first of these traits is that of the internal enemy. If the individual is not with the state, then he is against it. This leads to dividing humanity into two groups of unequal worth.

This leads the individual to the feeling of relief from personal responsibility for decisions. The state restricts its subjects to instrumental thinking and the treating of all actions as means. This is precisely how such “ordinary people” are capable of such evil. The state accomplishes its goals without disturbing the individual’s moral conscience; it is simply replaced with a new one.

The state controls who works, where they work, what kind of job they get, if they can travel, where they can travel, whether they can own property, whether they can live, and so on. Almost all aspects of life are under the control of the totalitarian state. This leads to social schizophrenia. The individual must exhibit public docility at least. This social schizophrenia is a weapon in the hands of the state though. “[I]t lulls to sleep the conscience of the totalitarian subject, reassures him, and lets him underestimate the seriousness of his public deeds. Master of his heart of hearts, the subject no longer pays much attention to what he does in the world.” (Todorov, 129)

Thus, what Todorov is saying is that the resignation, deliberate blindness, and fatalism that is present in today’s technological democracies can easily lead a society down “the path of indifference and conformity” to the concentration camp.

Moralism is the invoking of a set of principles without acting on them, or without placing oneself at risk. It makes one feel superior, “I’m good, you’re evil.” According to Jacques Ellul, it is “one of the worst scourges of human existence.”

Another lesson I believe that was at least confirmed by the horrors of the camps is that: “All, or almost all, of us prefer comfort to truth.” (Todorov, 156)

There is so much more in this essay, including issues of gender that touch on other issues of note in the biblioblogosphere lately, and that also should be wrapped into professionalism.

Librarianship as Penance?” 15 Oct 05

For some explanation as to why I now take an engaged morality as so important.

Don’t You Think?” 23 Oct 05

Finding one’s voice. Liminality. Intention. One reason why I must speak up.

Designing Jakob Nielsen” 23 Oct 05

This is mostly a rant about Jakob Nielsen’s pathetic attempt at defining weblog usability. Many of us in the biblioblogosphere, much less the wider blogosphere, had a harsh reaction to his ideas on the design of blogs. My post includes links to some of them, even some not so harsh reactions.

Nielsen’s first mistake is his unspoken assumption that all blogs except those that “are really just private diaries” are actively trying to “reach new readers who aren’t your mother.” Underlying this assumption though is a far more insidious one; that we are all just selling a product, a corporate identity. Along with that assumption is one of extreme danger to human beings; that we must separate the personal from the public, “corporate” identity.

I was almost destroyed by following this path. I am still trying to recover from it, and many days I am not convinced that I will succeed due to the extreme opposite pressure my society exerts on me, and everyone else. [See my “Librarianship as Penance?” post for more info on my personal battles.]

I will not succumb to this path again. I am one person; not multiple persons. My life must remain coherent and integrated. This is not to imply that everyone who only blogs about professional library issues is highly fragmented, just that I do not choose it as a path for me.

Two blogs or not two blog? That is my question.” 3 Nov 05

My 1st discussion of the possibility of having a 2nd blog, complete with great feedback. I know I’ve had at least one more of these conversations more recently but I can’t find it.

Interesting days here lately” 10 May 06

More on moral minimalism and more.

Collegiality and professionalism are perfectly fine qualities. But they also often stand in the way of real dialogue and progress. That does not mean that they can be completely tossed aside. That is not what I am advocating. I am striving to find a way to be critical, as in offering critique, while remaining collegial and professional. That is a difficult balancing act, and no matter how well one succeeds many will consider any attempt to do so an abject failure. Mind you, I am not even claiming that I am succeeding, only that I am striving to get there.

Everything above is from my 1st blog, …the thoughts are broken… and was migrated here in July of 1996.

Shutting down conversations … and starting them” 18 Oct 06

Many of the important ideas have been around for a very long time. They are all critical today. They are being used; by people who can afford to pay. We finally have the computational ability (affordability, primarily) to do things thought of at least as far back as 1867. Cutter and multiple class numbers, anyone? Many other wonderful ideas arose in the intervening decades. But for a long time, computing “power” was non-existent and expensive. Now that we can finally do many of the things dreamed of for 130 years, some of “our leaders” want to dismantle the whole structure. [Why do I pick so many darn underdogs? Something about being a small kid….]

As a reminder to myself as I rewrite my critique of an article that I think does much to shut down conversation. Many will think my critique is doing the same thing. Maybe. But what it (and this) is really doing is trying to start a new conversation.

And, of course (again):

if i had sense, i guess i’d fear this” 1 Feb 07

“Professionalism.” Often, use of that term is simply Orwellian so that it can be used to rein in others.

As long as it is “professional” to label a completely unnamed group as “fervent believers” with all the “elements of a religious argument” with a “plethora of unexamined assumptions” but it is unprofessional to actually name your opponents and point out their unexamined assumptions … well, simply count me out.

I was very sad when I wrote that. But, if you know me in the slightest, you knew you couldn’t count me out.

And believe me, this trigger, if you will, is only the tip of the iceberg for me as you will have realized if you read any of the above.

But due to it I have come to realize that there are others who feel much the same as me about what “professionalism” is and is not, and the manner in which the term is used within our profession. With that in mind, I would like to start a conversation; actually I want to start lots of conversations.

Postscript: The article critique I have been hinting at will reappear in no more than a few days hopefully.

if i had any sense, i guess i’d fear this

i guess i’d keep it down
so no one would hear this
i guess i’d shut my mouth
and rethink a minute
but i can’t shut it now
‘cuz there’s something in it

Ani DiFranco. “Shameless.” Dilate.

This is a somewhat blind post, if I understand that concept correctly, although it is rather transparent to some.

Depending on how quickly you attend to your aggregator, and on your click through habits, some of you may have noticed that I removed a post.

One person had commented on it fairly quickly and seeing as they are my friend, I took their comments in the best light I could. Nonetheless, although I disagreed with whether it was unprofessional or not, I did agree that they were correct as to how many others would perceive it. This caused me so much inner turmoil that I literally became sick. I struggled with what to do for the next 30 hours or so, wondering if and what other kind of feedback I might get, where it might get linked from, etc. In the meantime I worked on a reply to my friend. After two nights of not sleeping well and having my stomach and worse torn up, I got up Tuesday AM, made a copy of the post and the reply, and removed them. Of course, I was quite aware that those actions would only make me sicker, and despise myself. I then wrote much of this post [except for this paragraph] and decided I might want to wait and review it before posting. I also decided to see if anyone even noticed before posting. This morning I woke up to find a comment from another friend—in another venue—that said they had wanted to comment on it because it was “a great critique.” At that point—now being actually sick due to a stress-reduced immune system—I just started crying. [Thank you, btw, for the compliment.] I have discussed the behavior of those I was critiquing with several professionals—none of whom has seen my critique—and they all agree that the argumentation in that article is not the slightest bit professional. I have provided a copy of my critique to one of them and they may provide me some feedback; I certainly hope so. This person understands me, I think, and knows that I am only trying to grow. They also understand the dangers of “public” growth. [Now back to my original comments….]

I would appreciate it if you would just let it go. I am not ashamed of it. In fact, I was kind of proud of it. I worked on it on and off for 8 days. Sure, it could have been better in many ways. Almost any piece of writing could be improved. And, yes, I did mean my subtitle. I thought it fit very nicely with theirs.

Nonetheless, I’d appreciate it if you’d just let it go. I guess if you have a copy—in your feed reader or wherever—you are free to do what you want with it under my CC license, as long as you attribute me. But I am asking that you just let it disappear into the great bit bucket in the sky. [I might be up for some back channel discussion at this point. Maybe.]

I’m tired, and I’m sad. I believe the things I said and some days I wish I could really say what I want. But this profession, for all of its vaunted beliefs in freedom of speech, freedom to read and other espoused principles, in no way supports that. They are most certainly not accepted for its own members. And most people in the profession, if they even truly believe in them, would never sacrifice a moment of discomfort to uphold them for someone else, much less themselves. Sure, we have a few heroes each year who do the right thing, but most librarians—and here I mean the “professionals”—wouldn’t think twice before violating almost every one of those principles if it meant keeping themselves out of jail or perhaps keeping their job. Sheep.

Some days I don’t really care. I know what my family and I have sacrificed—and continue to sacrifice, over the last almost 30 years now, and on a daily basis—so that other people can (purportedly) have these rights in our nation.

“Professionalism.” Often, use of that term is simply Orwellian so that it can be used to rein in others.

As long as it is “professional” to label a completely unnamed group as “fervent believers” with all the “elements of a religious argument” with a “plethora of unexamined assumptions” but it is unprofessional to actually name your opponents and point out their unexamined assumptions … well, simply count me out.

I have personally seen what those sorts of arguments lead to! After giving up the best years of my life (and much of my family’s) I had to find a way to cope with the fact that my son was being sent to war for just those sorts of reasons. And I have to continue to cope with that. Every. Day.

I have so much more to say, but I’ve already said too much. I’ll leave you to ponder this:

“Professionalism”, at the moment in my mind, is no better than “United We Stand.”

Can someone please tell me where I can find the magnetic ribbon for my car?

some people wear their smile
like a disguise
those people who smile a lot
watch the eyes

Ani DiFranco. “Outta Me, Onto You.” Dilate.

Quick toof update

It’s just before 6 PM CST and I’m back home from the endodontist. As soon as I’m done with this I’m off to bed.

I slept like crap; hell, maybe didn’t even sleep last night. I am and have been exhausted all day. An hour drive each way, in the rain. Was great fun! Have I mentioned how much I despise driving in the rain? Long story….

Sure enough, the tooth was dead. Additionally, the gum and jaw have become infected. Actually, he didn’t mention it but I can tell, the glands in my throat are swollen and sore too. So I have a sore throat inside and out! He did give me an antibiotic for the infection, thankfully.

I have to go back in about 3 weeks and get some more root canal goodness done on it. Then go see the regular dentist a few weeks later to get it permanently resealed. Such fun! And only $944. For just this visit. Honestly, I’m not that sure I’m worth this kind of money. [Miss E, was that a root canal that you had a few months back? And did our student insurance cover any of it? I’m not holding out much hope.]

I was able to get back to Champaign-Urbana to the clinic to get my meds filled. Penicillin and Vicodin. Then I stopped at MerryAnn’s diner on the way home and got some breakfasty goodness so I didn’t have to worry about making myself dinner.

I am trying to keep my head above water and stay connected with folks, but please forgive me if I’m not quite so timely lately. I haven’t even been able to go to work (any of my jobs) since I got back from Austin Thursday evening. Haven’t got much homework done either. I may have gotten rid of the ants, and I did get to see several of my bestest friends in the world at ISU yesterday. I even got to spend more than a few minutes with Mo, Gina, and Chris! Not quite so much time with Katie and Jenna. I truly hope you all know how much you mean to me. And Miss Mo, I will always talk to you like I think you understand what I’m talking about. Because, you generally do, and there never was any question that you are capable of doing so.

Then in the evening I got to have a wide-ranging discussion of two good books and many other things, like the state of the academy, culture, education, etc. with three brilliant men. Where were you Rachelle? We’ve put our discussion group on hiatus for a while. Not sure when we’ll revive it. *sigh* I’ve been reading, discussing and learning from these folks (and one or two others) for almost 7 years now. This (slightly variable) group has been one of the best communities that I have ever been a part of. Despite, or maybe in spite of, almost 200 hours of higher education since meeting them, they are truly responsible for the quality and depth of my education.

OK, enough of this blog stuff. I’m off to bed. I love you all, new friends an old, “virtual” friends and “real.”

And, no, I’m not high off the Vicodin yet. I just took it, and I would need to take a handful for that to happen. Another long story….

Love and Garbage: Some Comments

This is not a review. I have no idea how to review literature, especially Czech lit.

Klíma, Ivan. Love and Garbage.

I finished this book last night, having read it and Kundera’s The Joke over the summer for my book discussion group. I really do not know enough about Czech history to properly place these books, or Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in their proper context. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed them all.

I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being a few years ago for a grad sociology seminar in “lived morality.” It was the first work of literature that I had read in many, many years and I had to analyze the morality on display in it after one reading. I posted my paper to my original blog, reproduced here. [I have no idea what that stupid emoticon is doing in there. One other oddity from my move to WordPress to investigate.]

As I said, no review, but I would like to cite a few of the passages that I found meaningful, if not necessarily related to our discussion group on realism in Western lit. I have not quoted everything that I found particularly meaningful. Some passages are too personal, and even in some of these that I have quoted you will be unable to grasp much of the context relevant to me.

Thus my home became for me both a refuge and a cage, I wanted to remain in it and yet also to flee from it; to have the certainty that I would not be driven out and also the hope that I’d escape one day (14).

There was a period in my life, not so long ago, where I constantly felt like this. Nowadays, it rarely bubbles up, but the feeling does remain buried in me somewhere.

I wanted to achieve this not out of some kind of pride but because I realise that the most important things in life are non-communicable, not compressible into words, even though the people who believe they have discovered them always try to communicate them, even though I myself try to do so. But anyone who believes that he has found what is truly enduring and that he can communicate to others the essence of God, that he has discovered the right faith for them, that he has finally glimpsed the mystery of existence, is a fool or a fantasist and, more often than not, dangerous (16).

The prime context for this was on being a writer and discovering the ineffable and important for oneself. But the second half seems even more relevant in today’s world.

What feelings does a person experience in a place where death spreads his wings more often than birds (28)?

Resonated with me based on much of my other readings for the “lived morality” course, especially Todorov’s Facing the Extreme. As macabre as this thought may be, I wish many more people in today’s world might really be able to consider it seriously. Maybe, just maybe, there might be a bit less wholesale slaughter.

The protagonist on why he writes; possibly why some of us blog?:

Years ago, I persuaded myself that I would be able to communicate these images to someone, that there were even people about who were waiting for them in order to share my joys and sorrows. I did all I could to meet their supposed expectations: I was doing this not from pride or any sense of superiority but because I wanted someone to share my world with me (54).

The following quote struck me as relevant to preservation within cultural heritage institutions, to consumerism, and to mass society, amongst other things:

This is something we are both aware of: that the world is groaning, choking with a multitude of creations, that it is buried by objects and strangled by ideas which all pretend to be necessary, useful or beautiful and therefore lay claim to perpetual endurance (107).

And yes, I realize that this is quite applicable to this blog, along with blogging in general. There is no need for anyone to comment that this is in contradiction to my own practices. For one, I am not arguing that this blog, nor my previous one, need to be preserved. I am also not pretending that this is “necessary, useful or beautiful.” If anyone finds it such, then so much the better. But I am not pretending to think it is, nor arguing that it is. Also, for those disposed to question my sincerity regarding the meaningfulness of this quote in my life, all I’ll say is that if there are no dichotomies or ambiguities in your life then you are already beyond the living and just don’t realize it yet.

Resonates with the situation in today’s world:

…man can behave arrogantly not only by deifying his own ego and proclaiming himself the finest flower of matter and life, but equally when he proudly believes that he has correctly comprehended the incomprehensible or uttered the unutterable, or when he thinks up infallible dogmas and with his intellect, which wants to believe, reaches out into regions before which he should lower his eyes and stand in silence (111).

Views on literature:

I still believe that literature has something in common with hope, with a free life outsde the fortress walls which, often unnoticed by us, surround us, with which moreover we surround ourselves. I am not greatly attracted to books whose authors merely portray the hopelessness of our existence, despairing of man, of our conditions, despairing over poverty and riches, over the finiteness of life and the transience of feelings. A writer who doesn’t know anything else had better keep silent (123).

While I do not fully support the sentiments at the end of this quote, in general, I do agree that literature can (and should) provide some form of hope.

Current world, consumerism, trying to fill the void:

The amount of freedom is not increasing in our age, even though it may sometimes seem to be. All that increases is the movement of things, words, garbage and violence. And because nothing can vanish from the face of the planet, the fruits of our activity do not liberate but bury us (130).

…an inner emptiness cannot be filled even with all the objects in the world (137).

The Apocalypse can take different forms. The least dramatic, at first sight, is the one in which man perishes under an avalanche of useless objects, empty words, and excessive activity (145).

On Hoess and the German crematoriums, and the attempt to “cleanse” the world:

The brooms are becoming ever more efficient. The Apocalypse — that is, the cleansing of the world of human beings and of life altogether — is increasingly becoming a mere technical problem (151).

However, the human spirit has not been idle in this revolutionary age: the flames which the cleaners have at their disposal today are capable of simultaneously incinerating any number of people in their own homes (152).

Modern living and society; the soul; the fate of the world:

We break the ancient laws which echo within us and we believe that we may do so with impunity. Surely man, on his road to greater freedom, on his road to his dreamed-of-heaven, should be permitted everything. We are all, each for himself and all together, pursuing the notion of earthly bliss and, in doing so, are piling guilt upon ourselves, even though we refuse to admit it. But what bliss can a man attain with a soul weighed down by guilt? His only way out is to kill the soul within him, and join the crowd of those who roam the world in search of something to fill the void which yawns within them after their soul is dead. Man is no longer conscious of the connection between the way he lives his own life and the fate of the world, which he laments, of which he is afraid, because he suspects that together with the world he is entering the age of the Apocalypse (194).

On being a writer:

Anyone longing to become a writer, for even a few moments of his life, will vainly weave fantastic events unless he has experienced that fall during which he doesn’t know where or whether it will come to an end, and unless his longing for human contact awakens in him the strength to rise, purged, from the ashes (220).

“Cleansing” and the current situation:

It occurred to me that I put on that orange vest for a time because I was longing for a cleansing. Man longs for a cleansing but instead he starts cleaning up his surroundings. But until man cleanses himself he’s wasting his time cleaning up the world around him (223).

I sure wish many of our leaders would learn to cleanse themselves first. Preemptive “cleaning of the world around him” is not only a waste of time, but often dangerous, and quite possibly downright evil.

Again, you really can’t tell much of my psychology or views based on these excerpts. Unless you had read, seen, and heard all of the same things as me, and knew how they affected me and how I have reacted to them, you will not be able to properly understand any of my choices of passages or my comments.

I have only undergone this exercise in the attempt to reach a very few and to highlight some of this book. Do not mistakenly think that these exceprts adequately represent the themes, or the hope, of this book.

Yes, hope. As dismal as many of these exceprts seem, this book does contain hope. It is up to you to find the hope that it contains for yourself.