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Ranch - Thanksgiving "Looking Back"

The theme threading through the next two weeks is retrospection. In these 14 days left in 2013, I’m going to post a series of glances back — to the overriding ideas and lingering questions which have taken shape in the short life of this blog. Part of my motivation here is to ventilate some pieces of writing and media which were posted months ago, before I had much of a following, and have since been unfairly neglected as they collect dust in the corners of this website. Another motivation stems from my desire to identify and describe what I see as some very definite patterns of thought which have directed my reading and writing in the 467 days this blog has been alive. While the 327 posts which have appeared during that stretch seem to have come in an unpremeditated, case-by-case way, they have in fact been related to a set of discrete subjects I only now have been able to partially identify.

So, the plan is to try to reorganize the filing cabinets and set the house in order before the new year is here.

To start, I’m going to borrow the standard mid-December lead from so many magazines and create a list of what I think are the Best Books of the Year 2013. Except this list will be for the past fourteen months, and it’ll feature every book I’ve read (and some that I’ve tried but failed to finish) along with a one sentence review of each.

Next, a look at some headlines. These are the fundamental questions which I’ve grappled with — in my spare time, schooling, and work — over the past year. These will not be subjects like “Politics” or “War” or any of the others listed on the sidebar, but rather more refined ideas which traverse those subjects and have been, for one reason or another, resonant for me throughout the past year. The plan here is to write one or two summary paragraphs about each of these ideas, synthesizing various disciplines to explain why they in particular are so vexing and compelling. This is a challenge of concision: to strain some dense subject matter through the sieve of several different disciplines, and in the process, formulate a definitive answer to the question of where I stand on each subject.

I’ve narrowed this list down to 7. They are, in reverse order of personal significance, the following:

7. War’s immortality
6. Why power corrupts
5. What makes you one person?
4. Modern healthcare is making us stoics — but not philosophers
3. How do Americans form their political opinions?
2. Is a human life a narrative?
1. Fideism

I want to give each of these topics their due. Consequently, if the holidays become too hectic, I may not be able to get to the last few before the New Year.

Finally — and this I will get to before 01/01/14 — I’m going to assemble a ‘highlights’ list for each subject I’ve posted on this year. These will be inventories of my 5 favorite works of fiction, philosophy, politics, original writing, etc. of the year, as well as a list of my 10 favorite posts of the year. Again, the point here is to summarize some major themes and bring other ignored and previously-posted works to the light of day.

So, in addition to regular posts, keep your eyes out for these looks back.

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The photo: I took it over the Thanksgiving holiday in New Ulm, Texas.