I’ve been taking a lengthy break from the news cycle — the first in a long while. Disappointment at Ted Cruz’ withdrawal from the presidential race was probably what prompted it more than any other single event, but it’s also been a long time coming. I’ve observed that constant engagement with the nonstop news machine tends to create a toxic, bogged-down perspective — one whose opportunity cost is difficulty thinking about the longer term and seeing the bigger picture. The day-to-day bad news is made worse by the fact that much of it is foreseeable — the result of decisions being made based on flawed theories whose siren song of wishful thinking garners steadfast devotion. Watching the results unfold wears on the spirit after a while; you get weary of playing Cassandra. The world we inhabit today has become profoundly disconnected from the culture I grew up in and fell in love with, and not for the better. The inconvenient terrible acts of some are excused, while others who espouse our most cherished foundational values are painted as the worst of villains, as befits the “narrative”, the demagoguery of the day. In this light, the 24/7 news cycle resembles more and more a play full of sound and fury, that in the end signifies very little about the long term. Reportage often tells one more about what bien pensants have decided we ought to think about a topic, than about what factually happened when and why. Like carbonated sugar water, it becomes easy to give up, once you realize how little you miss it and how well you can live without it. Disengaging for a while has enabled me to see a bigger picture that is too easily obscured by obsession with the tumultuous short-term. It seems to me that history is cyclical. A frontier culture founded on the ideal of freedom lasts only so long before we sabotage ourselves with self-doubt born of boredom and insufficient challenge, of removal from continuous salutary testing of our ideas and efforts against reality. Eventually the clock runs out on any given place, and the imperative presents itself: those who wish to rekindle the great experiment must find a way out to a new frontier. So I’ve come to realize that I can either curse my luck for what things have become, or choose to connect with a profound sense of gratitude for the time and place I grew up in — one that showed me something truly beautiful and precious that no slander can diminish, for I lived it and saw it with my own eyes. Knowing what is possible is a huge part of the battle to rekindle it. We have a recipe that is portable — one that can perform its miracles again elsewhere, if we only take care to understand what it’s taught us.
On Independence Day, it’s traditional to think of the events that impelled the American colonists to separation from England, of the hard-fought Revolutionary War that followed and the acts of courage and sacrifice to which we owe our precious Liberty. This year, I find myself thinking also of the individual assertions of independence that quietly preceded all of that, as royal subjects one by one decided they’d had enough, and chose to embrace great risk in trade for the mere opportunity to build new lives by their own hands in a far-off land — in a place across an ocean where they could live in true, untrammeled freedom. Today we find ourselves on the cusp of a similar juncture. When a suitable destination presents itself, what happens next will at first happen quietly, and will probably pass largely unnoticed. The wheels that will impel some to that journey are already in motion. For those few who heed the call, the results will be nothing short of transformative. The characteristically American reactor will know reignition in a new place. True freedom will yield its generous bounty unhindered, and courageous men and women will once again celebrate a hard-won and therefore precious life, forged of their own efforts, in Liberty.
For the short-term, I may yet feel gloom. For the long term, that gloom is far outshined by stirring beauty that impels me forward, my heart aglow with joy. I cannot wait to see what our tribe of restless wanderers creates next.