As anyone who has read my blog over the past year or so knows, I try to keep my posts short while I explore the deeper meaning of things. A music review or thoughts about running are portals to ways I make sense of the world around me.
Since I launched the blog in 2016, it has been an on-again, off-again project. When I was not working full time last summer, I posted a lot. When I started working full time at WashU, my posts grew more infrequent. Well, I’m back to not working full time, and one of the benefits of semi-employment is relaunching my blog as I relaunch my Write Fox business.
The past 15 months have been months of tremendous trial for me and my family, much of it my own doing and responsibility. Perhaps some of those details will be gently revealed in the fullness of time, as will things about my past as I work on my memoir project, but for now I want to mention three books I will be reading to guide me on the way. I believe they will inform things I write here.
One of my deep interests now is the line between explaining our actions and excusing them. I hope to gain insight on this puzzle by reading Daniel Wegner’s The Illusion of Conscious Will. If consciously controlling our actions is an “illusion,” what role does personal responsibility play in our daily lives? Are we machines, responding to our accidents of birth, quirks of our upbringing, our race, our social class, and so on? Wegner’s 2002 book takes a scientific approach to these questions; I am hoping that 15 years later he has much to teach me, despite the all-out assault on science and rationalism currently under way.
Last week I went to a bookstore hoping to find books by the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. I have been interested in existentialism’s challenges to our assumptions about meaning, existence, and what it means to exist (or not) since high school. The chain book store I went to (sorry, friends at Left Bank! I was out of my usual flight path) didn’t have anything by Sartre, but they did have At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell. It appears to be a less weighty introduction to Sartre’s thought and that of his contemporaries, like Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus. My hope is it will refresh my memory of the basic tenets of existentialist philosophy and prepare me to dive into weightier things like Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.
Finally, Marcel Proust’s Swan’s Way has been on my nightstand for a long time. I started this novel once, got distracted, and didn’t get back to it. My hope is that as I meditate on my own childhood experiences and how they shaped who I am and what I have done, both good and bad, I will find inspiration, recognition, and parallels in Proust’s “novel of childhood.”
So here’s to new adventures, professional and otherwise.