Archives for 2023

Maybe it’s Fear, not Time or Money

Twice this weekend I’ve seen things – tears in the rain – that have made me wonder why not me? Why is life so unfair? Why am I failing? I have a scarcity mindset, and I’m trying really hard to turn that around into an abundant mindset. 

I was inspired to rush through from the kitchen, open a blank document, and start typing after reading Rob Hardy’s latest… what? Substack? Is that what we’re calling it now? His latest … trick? Cue sax! Newsletter? Email? Article? Man, Internetting is hard. His writing resonates. The first thing I found myself thinking was, ‘why am I whingeing and not working harder?’. But isn’t this work? The kind of work I want to be doing? You’re damn straight it is. 

I saw an Instagram post from Tony Polecastro yesterday informing me that Michael Watts is doing a guitar podcast for the Fretboard Journal. He just put one out with Tony McManus. And instead of being like, ‘yay, I can’t wait to listen to that’, my first thought was, ‘Fuck. That should’ve been me.’ I mean, what’s that all about? So I had a word with myself, while acknowledging that the feelings I was having were real, just not ‘justified’. Ken? Michael Watts is awesome and I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic interview. He’s in a much better position than I to make content like that.

And yes, I do make content like that, except that I sit on it and get in my own way with all my anguish and hand-wringing instead of putting it out. What’s that all about? I still have an interview with Hugh Burns on my hard drive. And it took me three years to get out the one I did with John Goldie. I guess it’s just not working. So why the sour grapes when I see someone else doing what I’d like to be doing? Yeah, that’s a sorry place to be. 

And yes, there was a time around 2018 when I wanted to be Tony Polecastro and I felt some sour grapes because he was doing it well and being successful while I was putting out inconsistent crap when my mood was up to it. 

And with Rob Hardy – he’s working so hard, pumping out well-written articles for 100 days, articles that make me want to rush through and open a blank document and start typing. So, although I feel like I’m doing okay most of the time, with my Morning Pages and my dog walks and my highly intermittent writing, I’m really not working that hard. I got fired up about writing a book on wokeism, wrote a few pages and then got lost in reading as a means of not writing. And it’s working – I’m not writing! So what I’d like to do is to show Rob that his stuff is actually changing my output and my life for the better. I can do that by showing up more, working more, writing more, reading less, walking, hiking, swimming, talking, making things based on my inputs, choosing my inputs carefully, discarding inputs that aren’t leading towards outputs. 

What I’d also be interested in doing is making sure that my inputs aren’t just things to get through, but are actually things I want to consume. Take the Putin book, for example: it’s great and I’m getting a lot from it, but it feels in some ways like a thing that I have to get through before the library return date of 23 February. This is true, but I have to make sure that it’s not just a thing I feel that I have to get through to check that box on Goodreads, but that it’s actually something that I really want to read. And it is. So there’s a weird dichotomy there. I’m not quite sure where that’s going; it’s just a feeling I have. Like reading the Oliver Boyd-Barrett Substacks – yep, I guess I am calling them that, like Hoovers and Kleenex – ugh! – I get through them, but I don’t really take in much of what he’s saying. I want to appear to be informed, but am I actually informed? I mean, at what level? And for what reason? So I can appear informed when I bump into Nickey on the farm track with our dogs? No, that’s just silly. But there is a desire to read about Russia. A strong desire. 

So we’re back to time management again. Nooooo. That’s where I always end up. Even more so than money management. But if we had money, I’d be able to manage time better. If I didn’t have to earn money by swapping it for time, I’d be reading about Russia and writing way more. 

These feelings might just be coming from being 51, seeing younger people doing amazing things, and feeling like my ship has sailed. That just dawned on me as I was playing some guitar and wondering what my life would’ve been like if I’d carried on with the fingerstyle passion that I had when the kids were born and learning guitar was an all-consuming thing to the exclusion of all other things. It was moving to Arran that killed that. What a fucking dumb move that was, seriously. Or will it eventually turn out to have been a good thing for reasons that I can’t yet see? Maybe. But yeah, middle age. I’d never really thought of that before. Have I just failed at lots of things because my mental health gets in the way? Probably. I could’ve been the next El McMeen, maybe. Or could I? I was always a copycat, never a creator. At least until fairly recently. Or is that being unkind and just not seeing when I was creative? Man, I’d like to finish reading Rick Rubin’s book. 

And yes, there’s part of me that wonders why I didn’t get involved with music in my youth. I skirted around it – singing in a band in the army, aged 17, playing in Sunday afternoon sessions with Paulo at Flanagan’s in Prestwick – although I think that was really more about the bevvy, camp-fire singing at St Andrews, that one gig in a St Andrews pub as a lead singer in a covers band. But back when we were listening to Licensed to Ill and the Pogues and the charts … but yeah, we had BMX and skating. They were creative things, although, again, copycat city, ha ha. And fear, the thing that held me back from ever getting any kind of air. So, is the root of my angst not time or money, but fear? I know I’ve thought that in the past. It doesn’t have to be now though, right? Isn’t that one of the benefits of getting older? Giving fewer fucks? Maybe. But how does that translate? I dunno. Maybe answering Rob’s questions would be as good a place as any to start figuring it out. They’re certainly better questions for me than what August Bradley set out in his annual review template. 

Patrick Deneen and the Russian Revolution of the 1890s

Here’s an interesting connection that came into my world today as I researched a book I’m writing on wokeism.
I listened to Patrick Deneen on a podcast called The Ezra Klein Show today. They were discussing liberal vs progressive politics, and Patrick’s thesis was that change doesn’t come from the proletariat alone; it has to be coupled with whistleblowers in the elite before revolution is fomented.

Patrick says:

But I also think that it’s not unlikely — and I guess I would place myself in this category — it’s not unlikely we will see something of a rebellion from within the elites. And this is always the case in revolutionary moments. Revolutions aren’t just the people picking up pitchforks and overthrowing the elites. It’s someone like a Lenin, who grew up as an elite, who becomes a kind of class traitor and calls out the deficiencies of his own class.
And I do think that there are growing number of voices from the managerial elite who are deeply concerned about the corruptions that we’re seeing in our own institutions, and are calling for and demanding and amplifying, I think, the charges that you’re seeing coming from the populist direction. So I think, in some ways — again, I can’t say what the mechanism will be, but I think if there is going to be some kind of improvement rather than a kind of devolution, it’s probably going to come — it would have to come from both directions.

Meanwhile, I got an email from my local library to say that the two books I had requested on interlibrary loan had come on. One of them was Revolutionary Russia, 1891–1991, by Orlando Figes. In the first chapter, it says:

When does a ‘revolutionary crisis’ start? Trotsky answered this by distinguishing between the objective factors (human misery) that make a revolution possible and the subjective factors (human agency) that bring one about. In the Russian case, the famine by itself was not enough. There were no peasant uprisings as a consequence of it, and even if there had been, by themselves they would not have been a major threat to the tsarist state. It was the expectations of the upper classes — and the Tsar’s refusal to compromise with them — that made the famine crisis revolutionary.

I love it when connections like this are made. On any other day, this wouldn’t have happened. Is it time for me to learn how to use the graph or canvas in Obsidian? I wonder … Maybe there’s something to this Zettlekasten idea after all!