This is from the sixth edition of the Near-Earth Object newsletter, to which you can and should subscribe, right here.
It occurred to me that one theme of the last few years, for me and perhaps for society in general, has been the pursuit of something like balance; a kind of tolerable, flexible equilibrium.
“Normalcy” is one of the ways we talk about it in terms of current events and public life, but with an understanding that the “old normal” isn’t quite going to cut it once we get through our current “new normal.” We want a sense of stability, but not stasis; there has to be both room for adjustments and the will to adjust. Steady forward motion with a few reasonable routes to choose from.
I know it’s where I am. I want to be engaged with the defining issues of our time, but not so much that I lose all sense of hope. I want to learn to live more fully in each small moment, but not to the point that I become oblivious. I want to marvel at how well my life has turned out, but not let myself off the hook for my mistakes, failures, and flaws. I want to be at peace with what I have achieved, but not fully accept anonymity and irrelevance. I want to feel that what I have, all I have, is enough, but not stop looking for greater possibilities.
Maybe that’s where the country is now, too. It seems to me that this is what the candidacy of Joe Biden has been offering us, and most of us are pretty pleased with it. Biden is offering, yes, a return to a kind of normalcy, but with a little extra kick. Biden is offering us what we had before “all this,” but a little better, and with an eye toward a little more. Not a lot more. Not revolution, not “change we can believe in.” It’s equilibrium-plus. It’s a balanced scale with a thumb at the ready as needed.
Biden is asking us to look at what we have as a country — in terms of our population, our institutions, our institutions, and our ideas — and decide that it is enough. Not to settle for, but to work with. We can take what we have, and use it to make everything a little better, bit by bit.
I suspect (though I certainly don’t know) that this is extremely appealing to most Americans. For progressives, it is an acknowledgement of what is possible, even if it doesn’t promise radical change. For sane conservatives, it assuages fears of some sort of sudden cultural upheaval. For everyone “in the middle,” for those whose sense of well-being is not tied to each new outrage-of-the-moment, it offers the comfort of the familiar, with a little optimism for steady improvement.
If Biden wins, I hope that we get this. Whatever happens, I hope I can find it for myself. Because what all of us need now, as individuals and as a civilization, is a little peace.
Interesting things: Two books of essays about totally different subjects have informed my thoughts here. More prominently, I just finished Heather Havrilesky’s What if This Were Enough?, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I’m also enjoying Michael Dirda’s Browsings, which is about his thoughts on books and other stuff.
Last week, I made a video out of the speech I wrote for George W. Bush in the event that Donald Trump refuses to concede a lost election. I’m pretty happy with it.
Also I have a video/podcast-thing on wrestling with my self doubt as I try to be a “real writer,” which also turned out pretty well. And it has fake time-travel.