I've been facing writer's block for the past two years. That's a long time for someone who is an external processor and who has regularly prided himself on being a consistent and thought provoking writer. It's not that I haven't tried. I have a catalog of several dozen articles over the past couple years that I have started to write, ultimately to give up somewhere in the process. Perhaps this is something all writers face at some point. I recently learned that Victor Hugo, author of the infamous Les Miserables regularly encountered writer's block. His solution probably would meet some considerable resistance in my house: to get nude, give his clothes to a valet, and lock himself in a room with pen and paper. I might try it though...you know...why not?
As I sat last night and talked with my wife and Drinklings partner I ultimately realized why I have had a habit so often of starting and stopping my thoughts before inevitably leaving the post in the draft section: my worldview has undergone a fairly radical reorienting over the past several years. I assume some of this has occurred because of typical maturation but a great deal of it has ensued because of some atypical experiences and, coordinately, because of some incredible dissonance between that experience and with what was once illustrated to me as truth.
The kind of ‘truth’ I am talking about binary thinking: an 'either/or', 'truth/false', 'good/bad', us/them' sort of worldview to this world. I'm talking about dualism: the very concept that the world is broken into two partitions and little more. It’s the sort of truth that categorizes people, things, and ideas into labeled boxes, usually for the sake of popularizing it and then passing a verdict on it in order to keep up the attraction.
G.K. Chesterton said, “the simplification of anything is always sensational.”
Like Chesterton, I am not a relativist. Nor am I a pluralist. Relativism is stupid thinking and it’s lazy, both epistemologically and morally. I believe in rather ardent expressions of good and evil, right and wrong. Indeed, this whole Drinklings project is based around the concept that there are real legitimate expressions of evil and injustice in the world. So don't do think I'm talking about throwing out morality. I'm just talking about more.
I am talking about simplicity and complexity. I’m talking about absolutism versus the ‘person-in-environment’, as sociologists say. I’m talking about stereotypes versus lived experience, about the devil in the details, about multi-faceted systems and experiences.
As I’ve attempted to write lately about various issues, I’ve found myself wanting to put a thousand footnotes to almost every paragraph noting all the exceptions, qualifications, and side trails necessary to give a fuller account of what exactly I mean. This sucks as a writer because you start to realize what a disservice click bait and social media headlines are to truly understand our world. The world cannot be boiled down to 140 characters, yet this doesn’t stop us from trying.
As a pro-life advocate, I oftentimes get put into boxes and assumptions that would be labeled as ‘conservative’ or ‘right-winger’ and, yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth. How can I be pro-life without being, at the same time, pro-minimum wage increase, pro-paid medical leave, pro-health care access, pro-SNAP, pro-equal pay for sexes, pro-education debt reform, pro-sex ed, pro-qualified prenatal care, etc: when you understand that one of the reasons why people choose to abort is because having a child is economically unsustainable, it makes you realize that being pro-life is not a matter of simply changing the legal status of abortion...it's a matter of changing the very conditions that make abortion is desirable option in the first place.
The world is simply not simple. Nor are people's lives and experiences. If you were to sit down and really reflect on why you are where you are, there would be a million reasons still completely unknown to you! As I say sometimes, the only reason I even exist is because 10,000 years ago a cave-man named Gru didn’t get eaten by a lion on the way to pick up his date! That may be extreme, but the reality is none of us have enough omniscience to truly understand the backdrop to our own lives, much less the lives of others. Our base response when we see suffering, poverty, family brokenness, addiction, homelessness, mental instability, and so forth should be compassion, not judgment.
Today’s culture is rampant with complexity at every level possible and, yet, politics, religion, and media have encouraged us to adopt simple explanations at the cost of realizing how deep the rabbit hole really goes. It goes deep--far deeper than any of us are willing to go. And, yet, we must descend into that hole if we actually intend to remotely understand the world.