We are all Michael Jackson.

The amount of attention and the sheer bandwidth devoted to the passing of Michael Jackson is, well, amazing. Some may find this disturbing. I am inclined to think that it is a telling moment in the unwinding of American society’s scroll.

People read Michael Jackson human interest stories because he represents what is true of a lot of us. We have been incredibly successful, or have at least had promise of great talent and opportunity, but now can no longer sing. We have demonstrated the ability to produce and earn, but we are buried in debt and have nothing to show for past years’ incomes. We take too many pills. We fear death and worship youth and seek to hide what age has made us by alabaster pastes, or brave new lines of skin and cartilage. Too many of our relationships are defined by self-interest; other people do things for us because they know or hope that we will pay them something sometime; in social spaces where there is no opportunity for exchange, such as in waiting rooms or airports, we Americans keep to ourselves and barely say “hi.” Yes, we are all terribly alone.

We are all Michael Jackson.

This is true of the individual and the collective. Our country would like to think that it is young and strong and has its best days ahead of it. At least, Mr. Reagan said so, and Mr. Obama repeated the line recently. Yet we have the oldest written constitution in the world. We are, in fact, an ancien régime. Even Appotomax stands a sesquicentennial back these days. Collectively, we want to think that everyone else out there will love us again and that, with inherent genius, we can do another tour and have another campaign and even save the children of the world, as if they would come to me. But has been some time since we walked on the moon.


The classical mid-life crisis.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.
At last, I am one with the Dante of the poem. I turned 35 yesterday. I had a very nice celebration with my spouse--she put a lot of effort into it with arrangements and all. As for turning this particular year, well, I am acutely conscious that I "need to make a contribution." And nothing else really much matters, in the end.


Emperor of Ice Cream.

The Limits of Philosophy
". . . the philosopher's judgment is easily confused by a multiplicity of considerations that are alien and do not belong to the matter and can make it deviate from a straight direction."
Kant, Groundwork, Ak 4:404.


A flash of realization discloses the discipline which Facebook's status message impose. A window for aphoristic thought—or bad poetry. Is this an epiphany?
I think I shall try an experiment. Use Facebook status messages to express ideas or, at least, universal images and big-picture sentiments. Try to do this often. Seek to be allusive, epigrammatic. Maybe include a simile or a really bad Haiku. 
After three years, print them all off and put them in a book like N.
(Just kidding about the book part.)


Reactions to Hillsdale College Commencement, 2009.
I wrote this in mid-May and posted it on Facebook. I received some good feedback, some of which made some legitimate criticism. I will repost here and now, perhaps take more criticism, and revise or work into something larger later on. 
In reflecting on my experience in attending the 2009 commencement, I had to think back to another, very different ceremony—the memorial service for Alexandras Shtromas about ten years before. I thought about how George Roche III, in one of his last public acts ere his fall, reading the Gospel lesson in an explicitly Christian memorial service staged in the college theatre auditorium on behalf of a Jew who did not profess Christianity yet who was clearly beloved by Roche and whomever else was responsible for coming up with the idea to put on the service.
Anyways, the juxtaposition was very striking. In the 2009 ceremony, Larry Arnn introduced a student of Leo Strauss, Hadley Arkes, to give the commencement address. Many Straussian political formulations ensued. There were several crucial references to the Old Testament—to Isaiah and to Decalogue. There were more to Aristotle. The claims of political science to be the ruling science and architectonic art were registered, with the gentle foil of a joke about cutting grass. Theology could not really be mentioned, either as a field of study or as providing any propositional content that might guide the students. Again, and then again, we were instructed in what they call like to call “classical political rationalism.” I was forcefully struck by the sheer secularity of it all. That the whole presentation was, in effect, totalitarian, was brought home to me in the succeeding address of the student body president, who provided a tie-in the grass-cutting joke, and went on to speak not of faith or even of a crusade but of having his life changed by reading Kirk, and who then went on to be spoken of by Arnn, in thanks, as wanting to be assured that “We really are going to save the world, aren’t we?”
No one read Aquinas, but perhaps someone ought to have, as the very large class was about to be mustered out the door. “Man is not ordained to the body politic, according to all that he is and has; and so it does not follow that every action of his acquires merit or demerit in relation to the body politic. But all that man is, and can, and has, must be referred to God . . .” (Summa, I-II.21.4.rep3).
Somehow, I feel that the people who worship liberty are being crowded out by the people who worship virtue. Back in early 2000, when the whole selection process was underway, a friend told me that the great problem was for Hillsdale was how to select a leader who would be able to bring together the libertarian and Austrian crowd with the non-libertarian conservative tradition represented in Kirk. What I sense now, in going back (and also in looking over at recent Imprimis topics or looking at the guest list for the CCAs), is that such an intellectual meeting place is no longer being maintained. In time, my alma mater looks to become something of a Straussian seminary. I hope that I am wrong. Perhaps I just miss the Man with the Golden Voice—a man who, although he couldn’t tell you how he read the Bible or what passages were important to him, and could only echo a lot of Emerson—would nonetheless recite the Gospel in public.