We are never going to see this planet in a more intact and beautiful state and one of our jobs in this age is to bear witness to that beauty. And so that’s my excuse anywhere to try and get outdoors any way I can and it helps me along.
Look, there is going to be a lot of inescapable tragedy in the years ahead. We are going to see, as we’ve seen in the past year, record numbers of what we used to call natural disasters, what we no longer call that. Disasters where our thumb is very much on the scale, that aren’t acts of God, they are acts of us.
Things are going to be trying and difficult and horrible in many ways but also going to be a constant reminder of the need to get away from the hyperindividualism that has marked our culture and the very practical urgent utilitarian need to discover neighbourliness, because it is neighbourliness that gets us out of fixes and lets us deal with those kinds of things.
And the good news is, the restoring, reparative good news, is that it is in those communities — some of them temporary as we respond to things and work politically, some of them permanent in the places we live — that we will find pleasures and compensations that far outweigh the pleasures of the hyperindividual world that we need to leave behind.
We come out of tradition where we are commanded over and over and over again, above all else love our neighbours. And that became for a long time moral advice or a nice idea or whatever; I think it’s becoming clear at the moment that it is also extraordinarily good practical advice for how we deal with the world we are moving into both physically and psychologically, and let’s get to it.
I submit to you that, increasingly, this is how Clinical Standard Written English sounds to the Reddit-reading masses: orthodox, lifeless, soulless, a parade of pale impersonal zombie words drained of blood by some linguistic vampire, if you’ll pardon the mixed horror-movie metaphor. I’m not saying it actually is, necessarily; I’m saying that even well-written CSWE is, to many, fatally undercut by being CSWE. It still has its place — Wikipedia, say, and a few other sources whose pretensions of authority are still deemed acceptable, like maybe The Economist — but it is not the standard mode of our ongoing online discourse. It is out of place there. It is incorrect.