As a fiscal conservative with mostly libertarian social leanings, I’m regularly amused/annoyed by the classic liberal argument that runs along the lines of “conservatives are stupid hillbillies who have never picked up a book.” I can only assume when I hear that that what they really mean is “Mine is the only opinion that matters and if you disagree with me you are Satan/Hitler and I’m going to put my fingers in my ears so I’m not forced to listen to or attempt to comprehend dissenting opinions so I can go on trying to make myself look big by making others look small.”
Yes, I am a moderately conservative American raised in Appalachia. I suppose that, in and of itself, earns me the “stupid hillbilly” title in some eyes. You should know, thought, that I’ve also read Plato, Locke, and Rousseau. I’ve read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. I’ve read Aurelius’ Meditations and St. Augustine’s Confessions. I’ve read Atlas Shrugged, too, and the Bible, and more biographies of great leaders of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries than I want to list. My economics shelf covers everything from Smith’s Wealth of Nations to Marx’s Capital. History? Yeah, those shelves are groaning under the weight of volumes ranged from ancient Greece and Rome, the religious wars of Europe, to the space race that I’ve read and synthesized to help inform my view of the world. I won’t bother to deep dive the fiction that’s passed through my hands over the years. Suffice to say that Dickens, Twain, and a couple hundred others are on the list.
I say all that to say this: If you want to have a frank discussion on policy or the proper role of government, I’m usually all in. If you come at me with some version on “All Republicans are…”, well you should feel free to immediately go fuck yourself. I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the social media shitposting that would inevitably follow. It’s enough for me to know that by insisting in dealing in absolutes and arguments that rely on painting “all” of one group or another with a particular brush, you are far bigger part of the problem with the social discourse in this country than this stupid hillbilly could ever be.
Some people mount animal heads on their wall as trophies. Other people fill their walls with art as artifacts of their travels. Me? Well, I tend to acquire books at a prodigious rate. I seem to be acquiring them now at a far faster rate than I can actually read them, which leads me to my current troubles.
While the books I’ve read are happily filed and displayed on shelves in nearly every room, the growing “to read” stack has become something more like a “pile.” When doing most of your shopping at Goodwill or flea markets or used books shops, the time to buy is when you have it in your hand for $.50 or $1. The troublesome part, at the moment, is just what to do with this excess before allocating them “trophy” status on the display shelves.
The only logical thing to do, of course, is go out and find some inexpensive shelving that I can install in one of the spare bedrooms to serve as my own in-house book shop. Yes, I realize the far more reasonable option would to be get over my completely ridiculous desire to physically own the books I read and start drawing reading material from the local public library… but that doesn’t feel like something that’s actually going to happen. So, really using some of my newly found time off this week to rig some shelves and un-cluster the home library feels like something I can reasonably expect to accomplish without adding undue stress.
As I sit down to start writing this, it’s just a few minutes past 8AM. There’s a roast roasting, fresh sheets are on the bed, the vacuum was run through, the creatures have been tended. Even the birds have received their ration of feed. The heavy lifting of the day is done. It’s one of the perks of waking up not far past 5AM (the other being that at such an hour the world outside is brilliantly quiet, though that’s less an issue when winter’s in the air).
Yesterday I uncovered a bottle of unremarkable champaign, sparkling wine from California if we’re to be technical, that I’d stashed in the basement at some point and promptly forgotten about. Usually, finding something in the basement wouldn’t pass for something worthy of mention, except for this morning it’s a good illustration of why I don’t mind so much the 5AM wake up call and it’s corresponding 9PM bed time.
Sunday’s aren’t always a day of rest here. I don’t know how any working person could manage to give away a whole day like that. From time to time, though, the too do list thins a bit, you find a bottle of champaign in the basement, and you get to spend Sunday morning in a comfortable corner with a good book and a mimosa while the sun streams in the window.
If it weren’t for this kind of Sunday at Fortress Jeff from time to time, I’m not at all sure how I’d tolerate Monday through Friday during an average week.
I’ve had a hit or miss relationship with a lot of different social media platforms over the years. Facebook is a net good overall with its snark and funny animal pictures. LinkedIn was useless for me given my utter lack of interest in professional networking. Goodreads, though, has always been something of an odd duck in my estimation. I like the concept, but so much of it was duplicative of things I was already getting from Amazon or Barnes & Noble – reviews, recommendations, and so on.
The tempo of my reading has picked up over the last year or so. I’ve found myself plowing through more fiction than usual. Given my habit of picking up bundles of books on the cheap at antique shops, Goodwill, and in other non-online places, more than a few times I found myself with two copies of the same thing – usually something that I had brought home but not yet read. The ability to set books into an own it, read it, want to read it, and host of other statuses could be just the trick to help me avoid this in the future. unfortunately it also meant that I had some homework to do.
I’ve spent a bit of time each of the last few weekends cataloging the collection. Today I can report that I can account for all of the physical books I have on shelves here on the homestead, all of the ebooks, and even what’s sitting out there on my Amazon wishlist waiting to be shipped over to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a comprehensive list of what I’m reading put together. I spect I’ll find it surprisingly useful to have access to it in my pocket at all times.
Both my inner geek and my outer compulsion to have a world that’s neat and orderly are well satisfied at the moment.
Spend enough days in a row sitting through meetings where nothing is ever decided, writing emails that no one ever reads, and dreaming up good ideas that will never see the light of day and one might be forgiven for tending to adopt a healthy cynicism about their profession. In a bureaucracy where every cog has its own agenda and can through even the best laid plans off the rails, frankly I’m surprised when anything gets done at all. It’s practically a cause for celebration.
I suspect that’s why I spend so much of my “off” time doing things that can demonstrate a tangible result. Reading and writing are easy. Finish the book, draft a new chapter, and either way at the end point you have something to show for the effort. It’s measurable. I suspect it’s also why I throughly enjoy mowing the grass, running string trimmer, and cutting back another few feet of encroaching saplings. Adding two hours of physical work after eight hours of repeatedly banging your head against you desk probably isn’t everyone’s idea of good times… but it makes me unreasonably happy, even as it leads to increasing exhaustion.
In that one small way, I’ve carved a bit of order away from chaos. It’s not making the world safe for democracy, or curing polio, but it helps stave off the madness and that contribution shouldn’t be undervalued.
I’m always looking for new opportunities, which is why I’m contemplating posting a Craigslist ad to see what’s lurking around the area. In my mind it would read something like this:
Single white male, minimal baggage, and minor commitment issues seeks career opportunity in the exciting field of sitting on the back porch and reading. Willing to work days, evenings, weekends, holidays, and overtime as required. Will provide own reading material principally from historical fiction, fantasy, military and political history, and some philosophy and sociology. Health insurance required. Salary negotiable. A dog friendly workplace is not negotiable. Will also consider positions requiring significant written requirements.
An on site or video demonstration of my capabilities is available upon request. All reasonable offers will be considered. Thank you for your time, attention, and consideration. I look forward to working with you in the near future.