My Kingdom for Knowledge

The human perspective on time is a funny thing. We perceive time passing in a way that doesn’t seem to have much bearing on how much time has actually passed from a remembered incident to a present moment. Under the right conditions the passage of years or decades can feel like months. Other times, the passage of a paltry couple of years can feel like decades. I have experienced both senses of time when it comes to writing.

The first comprehensive project I undertook was a diary that lasted from approximately 2006 to approximately 2011, with some major gaps occurring in the last couple of years before the project died. My “public” debut happened in approximately 2015 when I took up writing a blog for a political psychology class in college. But whether it is the blog or the diary, I never really know what to make of my own writing. On the one hand, I can see echoes of old selves’ whenever I look – and in that way, not a whole lot changes. On the other hand, I typically spend long enough between my writing projects that certain things about my worldview and writing style can change quite substantially between my various attempts. In that way, time seems to elongate over the horizon and pass into the shadows of forgetfulness. Seeing such a memento to the passage of time leaves me with some very mixed feelings.

I have always tended to write according to a kind of necessity. For my diary, it was the idea that I wanted to preserve the memory of a particular time in my life. My previous blog was largely shaped by the demands of addressing certain subjects within the structure of my class. So what compels me this time? That’s hard to answer. Typically I’m a very private person. I didn’t get a Facebook profile until 2016. I positively loathed the idea of putting bits of myself online for everybody to see. A blog will be much more than that. After all, Longform essays on almost any subject will give greater insight into who I am than any Facebook profile could ever hope to achieve. I’m doing this because I’ve come to realize something important. People are social creatures, and even introverts depend on feedback from their fellow humans in order to refine their self-concept and grow accordingly. When I think back to the times that I am happiest in life, the time I have spent at University always hits the top of the list. I consider knowledge to be something of an axiomatic value in the way that many people value faith or love. Consequently I am happiest when I am learning something new. The best way that I could ever hope to refine my aforementioned self-concept is by regularly seeking out new and interesting knowledge. But I have found that I have trouble doing it in a vacuum. I have read that knowledge which isn’t rehearsed regularly never gets committed to long-term memory. If the last year and a half since I graduated University is an indication, I am no exception to that rule. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I still have a lot of trepidation about exposing this much of myself to public view. But I believe that in order to accomplish, the stated goal of this blog, I will also need to adopt the more successful aspects of the times in my life where I learned the most — and that means opening up to the world.

Part of my learning process in school involved engaging completely and totally with the subject at hand. My thirst for knowledge did not end with the conclusion of the lecturing period. I actively sought to have a constructive dialogue with anyone who was willing to continue where the lectures left off. I strongly suspect that a lot of the feedback that came from my peers was why I did as well as I did in University, as I never developed the most technically sophisticated work-study habits. As a side note, researchers now call this kind of process agile learning.

And so we come to the reason why I have chosen to write a blog instead of an online diary. Blogs don’t exist in isolation. Unlike many forms of media that came before them, blogs break down the barrier between a writer and his audience in a way that few prior mediums have even attempted to do. Some comments sections can leave me weeping for humanity, but some commenters end up writing more insightful responses than the original post. Personally, I hope for a robust back-and-forth that allows both myself and anyone who chooses to comment to learn from the things that I am able to share. If you are reading this, please feel free to lend your insights to the conversation.

So what will this place look like in practice? Right now that’s a bit hard to say. I majored in political science, so I suspect many of the posts on my blog will cover the more technical sides of politics. In the interests of getting this out of the way, I tend to lean leftwards. But please don’t let that stop you from challenging me. Some of my strongest friendships in college were forged with peers who were very conservative. While I couldn’t promise that I would always agree with their viewpoints, I did make a promise to both myself and them that I would at the very least hear them out.

I have other interests besides politics, and I suspect a few of them will come up very frequently. By the time you are reading this I should have also posted a short bio page, so I won’t be getting into any exhaustive lists here. However, I am maintaining a list of post categories so that anyone who wishes to follow my musings on a particular subject may do so. How often I am able to post will depend on some timing issues that are still getting worked out in my real life, but I hope to be posting close to once a week.

If I haven’t put you to sleep yet, thanks for reading and I will see you soon.

Live long and prosper my fellow netizens!

2 comments on “My Kingdom for Knowledge

  1. A Shakespearean allusion in your title — what an utterly appropriate beginning to a thoughtful blog. I enjoyed your musings and appreciate the tone of civility regarding political discourse.

    A class once asked me to explain the difference between Democrats and Republicans. I asked them to share with me what they think. After considerable silence, one student tentatively offered, “My parents say that Democrats don’t like war and Republicans do.” I explained that she didn’t tell me the difference between Democrats and Republicans as much as she told me that her parents are Democrats. She seemed surprised, wasn’t sure. I suggested she ask them.

    I enjoyed your link to Aytekin Tank. A professor once explained similarly that the best study comes from frequent, shorter bursts of effort, that the brain stores information differently depending upon the frequency of attention paid to the subject matter. That information has served me and many others well.

    Your lovely closing tribute to Spock inspired me to leave you with this other Vulcan jewel: “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991).

  2. Shawn,

    I enjoyed reading your post and Stephanie’s response.

    As a law student living in the Bay, I find your take on civilized discourse to be quite adept.

    As a moderate living in a liberal place, I find that far too often individuals (who are generally kind and intelligent) disregard adverse political views. I tend to believe that this only serves as a detriment to our community.

    My views have evolved as a result of listening to those whom I disagreed with. I believe that the process of discourse can actually lead to a better understanding of not only a particular issue, but also the person who holds the view.

    I look forward to reading more of your post old friend.

    Live long and prosper,

    Gus

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