A Stopped Clocks Series [archived]

[Archive note: This series was something of a misfire. I don’t think my conclusions here are necessarily incorrect, or even substantially wrong, but I just didn’t/don’t have the theoretical architecture necessary to say what I mean here.

I also realized after writing this essay that, at least given how things stand politically in the United States, I really don’t have the psychic energy to keep up with the news. It’s not that I want to retreat into the haze of masturbatory aestheticism (“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” &tc.) instead of paying attention to hard-nosed “real” politics. Rather, I think my distaste for the whole deal now is that so much of it seems to me exactly to be masturbatory aestheticism. I’ll spend my energies elsewhere, in places I think might be actually productive but that don’t make the headlines or trend on Twitter. (It’s probably not the worst rule of thumb to think that effectiveness in a material sense and possibility of trending on Twitter are inversely correlated.)

There’s a Zen practice I remember reading about where monastics will perform secret nice gestures for others. Straightening someone’s shoes outside their door, or leaving a little candy in their mailbox, or putting something away when someone else has forgotten to. No one talks about these actions and their performers actively try to avoid being noticed. The goal within the Zen context is to practice selflessness and generosity because these can and should be cultivated, like a seedling. The more one cares for the seedling of generosity (and actively pull the weeds of envy, resentment, etc.) the hardier that seedling grows, until generosity becomes effortless, just how one is. But more on that another time.

File this archived project under “misfired!”]


This page contains a series in progress on the question of stopped clocks and how they are right twice a day. My concern with these essays is not to counter or argue against these positions exactly, but to point out what might be recuperated and transmuted from within them. For example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a stopped clock: on just about every point of policy he is hideously regressive and was a die-hard for Donald Trump, even after the latter’s incitement of violence at the U.S. Capitol. BUT! Ted Cruz, unlike others in his party with similar ideals, is not an anti-vaxxer. Why? What could be learn from an examination of this clock that is only right one one issue?

This series is a work in progress, and will be updated only periodically. I don’t expect this collection of essays to focus exclusively or even significantly on politics or current events, although as the first installment points out, that is clearly on the table. The essays will also be available in the “Collected Essays” section of this site, but are arranged here for ease of access.