Halcyon Days Goes on Vacation

The Halcyon Days will be going on a brief hiatus while its principal contributor, Jason D. Rowley, (a.k.a me) finishes up a graduate school application (the three page “statement of intent” of which will be posted for HD‘s readers’ perusal) and visits Washington, D.C..

In the meantime, though, I highly recommend some of my friends’ blogs, each of which play a more optimistic counterpoint to my sardonic analysis of matters collegiate, entrepreneurial &c. Chief among them, I’d check out Ted GonderPatrick Ip, and Colin Young‘s blogs. Furthermore, please heed this shameless plug for Flyover Geeks, for which I contribute a column on the weekly.

In other news, work on the United Nations Academic Impact program is coming along quite nicely… expect more about that here on The Halcyon Days, and on the UNAI students’ official blog which is currently under construction.

There are a number of very long essays in the works, hopefully for publication as ebooks. One of which, an as yet untitled piece, examines American consumerism vis-a-vis Christmas vis-a-vis the teachings of Jesus Christ vis-a-vis the Catholic church and its doctrine. It promises to be, per usual, incendiary. Additionally, a short story is growing ever longer. Code Switcher, an excerpt from which can be found here on this blog, gets more and more complicated, and has required more research into mental disorders relating to split- and multiple personalities than expected.

For readers new to The Halcyon Days, the bulleted list below offers links to older posts considered especially emblematic of HD‘s mien. Do enjoy them, and please provide you feedback on the newly-installed contact form in the menu bar. I’m always in need of new topics about which to write.

HALCYON DAYS :: Best of June-December 2010


A Quick Thought On Awesome

I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before. In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.

I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine, Ted Gonder, about the end of autumn quarter, the inexcusable humanitarian atrocities perpetrated against students during finals week by the University of Chicago, and our plans for the Christmas holiday. Somewhere in there, conversation drifted to one of those very collegiate “what do you want to do when you grow up?” kind of exchanges. I am to a certain extent envious of Ted, because he knows, or at least has a ballpark estimate, of what he wants to do.

I don’t. I’m interested in approximately fifty bajillion things, ranging from 19th-20th century British and American history, astrophysics, cosmology, American literature old and new, psychology and cognition, and, for good measure, some finance, entrepreneurship, and not-for-profit work (because I like to pretend I’m a good person every once in awhile). I came to the following realization:

“I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century, romantic sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before.  In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.”

Unfortunately, for me, for now, I am not easily impressed by much. That will have to change.

A longer post, along The Halcyon Days’s vein of early summertime college apathy, is in the works.

Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

I believe this is one of those conversations that people can have only in college… specifically, as undergraduates. It must have been the mounting pressure of final exams, because within a three-hour time frame, just over five-pages of single-spaced text was produced.

A big thank you goes out to Ted Gonder for providing a voice of reason over the discussion.

Names have been obfuscated to protect the innocent and/or quixotic.

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Patrick Ip ‎posted

“Never, ever, for the rest of your careers, hire someone who had a GPA of 4.0. Ever. Because the definition of a 4.0 is that this person buys the act; they don’t screw around. Tommy Jefferson, Al Hamilton, and Georgie Washington, they were screwing around. This was a dinky doo-dippy country and they said, let’s go after that George dude. Now that was not smart. If they had 4.0 grade point averages, they would not have started this revolution.” -Tom Peters Continue reading “Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?”

On The Hating of Haters

This is a co-blogging effort with a couple of friends in response to negative feedback some of us received on our recent posts. Check out Patrick Ip and Ted Gonder‘s response to the following question, phrased so eloquently by Ted: 

As young guns rise to the archetypal “top”, they are often discouraged, doubted, and “hated on” by naysayers, pessimists, and…well…H8RZ. What are some ways that young, ambitious people can a) avoid being discouraged by such naysaying, b) extract constructive takeaways from intentionally destructive criticisms, and c) deal practically with the critics themselves?

I’ll break this down into its a, b, and c answers and follow up with a general overview or “takeaway,” as Ted is so fond of finding.  

A) How do young, ambitious individuals avoid being discouraged by such naysaying?

Ultimately, it boils down to self-confidence, or, to use a more buzz-word-y term, “conviction” in one’s team, goals, and belief system is crucial to avoiding discouragement. When facing negative sentiment, which more often than not boils down to a superficial, rhetorically invalid ad hominem attack. If Adolf Hitler comes into a room soaking wet and says it is raining, it’s somewhat of a logical non sequitur to disbelieve him solely on the grounds that it is Hitler who claims it is raining. (Note: I acknowledge that mention of Adolf is a sure way to lose any argument. Just lettin’ you know…) Similarly, just because I’m a bit of a verbose, convoluted writer who takes stylistic cues from D. F. W. and W. T. V. and R. P. (congrats, if you get the references), and that my slavish devotion to what ought to be often puts me at variance with those dreadfully pragmatic realists who decide to deflate my romanticized notions of the world… &c. Just because I am all of this and more doesn’t automatically mean that what I’m saying is wrong: it means that I am the one who’s saying it, and that, if you disagree with me, I’d highly recommend peeling back the layers of verbosity and romanticism and all the rest and take the kernel of my argument with a grain of salt. Don’t criticize me for my style, or Ted for the fact that his writing implements many buzzwords, or Patrick for seeing the world through rose colored glasses which render him overly optimistic and bleary-eyed to the logistical difficulties of some of his ideas; don’t criticize me for being a hater of the insipid, or Ted for his constant drive toward optimization of all levels of his existence, or Patrick for dreaming dreams potentially too big for his proverbial britches; instead, feel free to lacerate my argument, their arguments, not our style. I invite you to do so.

Takeaway from the above paragraph: Know that most criticism levied is ad hominem, and that such criticism holds no argumentative water.

B) How does one extract constructive takeaways from intentionally destructive criticism?

First of all, I’m not a big fan of needing to find “takeaways” (or, more precisely, “the personal, subjectively applicable salient points” of things) in every thing I experience or encounter. It is, for me, too much effort to bother with, and runs the risk of distilling ersatz meaning from where there was none. Even when done correctly, what one gains in simplicity one loses in nuance. Nuance matters; it is the stuff of life.

Once one winnows the critical field of the ad hominem chaff–and there is a lot of chaff, as a general rule–one is left with usable, consumable grain. (It’s nice how agricultural terminology and metaphor works here) This grain is what one is after, for it is from this raw criticism that one can grow.

I don’t believe there exists anything positive contained in intentionally destructive attacks. Such attacks masquerade as criticism. One can only chuckle smugly because, if only privately, one knows that the attacker has made an ass of himself, and that ad hominem aggression is in innumerable and nuanced ways beneath the deportment of the chuckler: he (i.e. the chuckler) knows better than to pass aggression off as criticism. 

What one is looking for is the really good criticism, the little point that gets under the skin and engenders the little niggling fear that the critic might be more correct than his target.  This feeling of anxiety, of unease, that the world has been rendered skewed in some way, is what leads to improvement of argumentation and, if exceptionally powerful, a shift in perspective entirely. One wrestles with this fear internally, and one must have the self-possession to admit error when this fear is faced and resolved not in one’s favor. Even when “proven wrong” (or, because we are all [Post- ?]Post-Modern relativists at heart, “less right”) we “grow.” Whether we change our views to reflect a corrected misperception or become further convicted in our previously held beliefs because we are forced to argue for them, “personal growth and development” occurs. 

Takeaway from the above paragraphs: Ad hominem attacks do not equal criticism and should not be treated as such, and that once one separates the criticism from the aggression, as one does wheat from chaff, one finds what is usable. By volume, there is always more chaff than wheat, both within this metaphor and on the farm.

C) How does one, in practice, deal with these critics?

I believe that this nested question was to be applied specifically to blogging, so I’ll answer to this interpretation.

Not coincidentally, most aggressors make their attacks under the shield of anonymity. The internet provides a safe space for them to go about their actions without being held accountable. Because finding their location via IP is often hit-or-miss, it isn’t worth looking. 

When someone posts a comment to a blog post of mine, I have to give it the go-ahead. I have the option to edit a comment before it is posted, although I never do unless someone made an egregious orthographic or grammatical error that might hinder comprehensibility to outside viewers. I am ruthless in not approving baseless, uncritical attacks, or those that are too obscene to be read aloud to a group of worldly sixth-graders (my favorite litmus test for appropriateness). If it isn’t civil, it doesn’t go public.

No, I don’t really care about censorship. I’m socially conservative in this way. Although I believe that taking offense is a choice, if one whose execution is so quick it is difficult to intercept, there are things that are objectively offensive; whether one becomes offended, and I use “becomes” very intentionally here, is beside the point.

In the event of a really good critical comment, I not only post it but feel in some way obligated to answer to it. This is the basis for my earlier posts On Thinking Critically and On Reading Critically.  

Takeaway from the previous paragraphs: Always remember that “haters gonna hate,” and learn to assiduously, guiltlessly strike down comments that, chaff-like, take up space and do nothing but act like black holes of moral turpitude and instigators of intellectual degeneracy via the logically and linguistically flaccid thought processes characteristic of so many who troll the internet looking to rain on one’s parade.