There’s really only one web comic I read anymore: xkcd. Randall Munroe continues to turn out thoughtful gems, and I really appreciate the ad-free nature of the site. I also find his What-If? series delightful; the first episode is one of my favorite interweb jewels!
But it’s his insight to the human condition and ability to nail a point with such brilliant brevity that I most relish. I value some of his comics as highly as I value favorite quotes; both are pithy petards against our myths and illusions.
And sometimes he even hoists my petard a bit!
At one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.
The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.
Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…
When the world hits your eye like a nasty pig sty,… that’s not amore, that’s Weltschmerz (best English translation: “world pain”). It’s a term I’ve been meaning to post about for years, since it — or rather what it defines — lies at the heart of most of my Rant posts. (Yeah, this is another Drafts post I’m finally setting free.)
Fundamentally, it speaks to a disconnect or gulf between what one feels ought to be true in the world compared to what actually is true. Implicit in the term is a moral bias regarding the ought; it doesn’t, for example, apply to the gap between wishing you were rich while being poor.
It seems to me very much a word for our times.
There are some notes that laid on the top of my possible next posts pile for a long time. Like the notes I posted recently, these clearly migrated from the same old boxes that I’m now excavating more seriously.
The ink is faded, and I can identify a fountain pen I used decades ago. Apparently I thought they had potential. But as little statements on life — being from a younger me — they now seem trite and bumper sticker simplistic. Yet they’ve had just enough flavor to keep them out of the wastebasket.
I’m tired of looking at them. Here they are.