Why All the Niceties


Regular readers may be puzzled by the sudden effluence of posts that champion the efforts of inspirational figures. I recently made a commitment to post one inspirational story every day, both to program myself for the virtues I wish to emulate and to contribute in the most unambiguously positive way to internet discourse.

It’s in my temperament to focus my intellectual energy on my disagreement and disgust with policies, actions, and viewpoints that I view as rooted in hate, exclusionism, and selfishness. This tendency results in several troubling outcomes:

First, my contribution to the discourse is generally pretty depressing which makes continued reading of my blog unsustainable for most readers. This in turn limits my ability to contribute to the discourse at all.

Second, I’ve been intellectually conditioning myself to argue only in the negative against what I don’t like without learning the extremely difficult skill of making a cogent case for better alternatives.

But the most pressing of these challenges is that, in grappling only with disgust and disagreement, I condition myself and my readers to see only the worst aspects of humanity. I realized that I was ignoring the advice of one of the most powerful mentors I never met, Dr. Michael Colgan of the Colgan Institute. His 1993 book, Optimum Sports Nutrition, remains one of the most powerful influences on my worldview since my days as an aspiring powerlifter in high school. I took so much meaning from the following passage that, to this day, I can quote it very nearly verbatim:

Put nothing in your mind unless it strengthens your will. Be careful what you watch and what you read, for that becomes what you know. Continually watch the daily soaps and you will become a soap opera character with the willpower and integrity of a wet noodle. But watch real strength and courage such as Fred Lebow fighting brain cancer to complete the 1992 New York Marathon, and your will grows stronger automatically.

It is always so, because the information that makes you what you are remains long after the source is forgotten. Even the most private beliefs that drive your life, even belief in God, you learned from other people. Were you born into a different culture you would believe with all your will in different Gods.

Do not fear failure. Fear does not exist in objects or situations that confront you. It is an obstacle to action created by your mind, created solely by false ideas of weakness that have been taught to you by others. Whenever you are afraid, you have frightened yourself.

So I’ll make every effort to continue the inspirational posts while I work on pieces of direct relevance to policy.

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