So I wrote a thing.

Much writing today appears to be produced by people who do not yet know they are going to die — who have not yet met Ivan Ilyich or Ivan Illich, neither Tolstoy’s unhappy protagonist nor the author of Medical Nemesis (1974). Their writing looks more like tagging than anything — notification of the author’s present life. Another way of saying the same thing, practically, is to note that most writing today is SEO’d, and has no life at all if it is not boosted and pumped by its author on social media. “So I wrote a thing,” a young author will say when providing a link, differing little in spirit and ambition than those illocutionary classics, “Kilroy Was Here”, or “Snorri [made] this hammer”. Often it seems that it is not the writing itself, but the tweet promoting the writing, that is the goal, just as now it is common to go to Iceland, say, primarily in anticipation of how this is going to look on Instagram. One thing about turning fifty is that it gets a lot harder to think of work in that way, as the activity that establishes us in life, rather than as the effort, inevitably imperfect, to create a faithful image while there is still time of the layout of one’s condemned interior castle.

Justin E. H. Smith’s Substack, 07/26/2022

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