Almost every day, I find myself disappointed about things I wrote four or five years ago — but I think that’s a good thing.
Even though I don’t publish many new articles anymore, my old ones are read hundreds and hundreds of times each day. The software I use tells me which articles are most popular each day and how many times each was read. The idea is that writers can see which things are attracting an audience and write more things like that.
In my case, though, I feel as though the numbers — and the old headlines — mostly serve to mock me. I certainly don’t shape my writing by what people want to read. Instead, the old titles serve as a roadmap showing how my ideas and my priorities have shifted radically since I started writing here.
The old things I wrote remind me how shallow my priorities once were.
Old articles frequently become popular again for reasons I’ll never know. Someone presumably finds something through an online search and then shares it on social media, where it will sometimes be shared enough to attracts tens of thousands of readers in a brief period.
There are times when it’s not so bad. Other times, the title jumps out at me and makes something inside me ask in an accusing voice, “Why did you ever bother to write that?”
Five years ago, I was more concerned with politics, so I wrote mostly about current affairs and political ideas. That’s what my (mostly libertarian) readers wanted, so I gave them exactly what kept them coming back. I was publishing an article every single day for the first couple of years, so it was a struggle to come up with enough to say. As a result, a lot of what I published back then was very thin — reblogged news stories saying, “See what happened? Isn’t this outrageous?”
For the most part, I don’t necessarily disagree with things I wrote in the past. It’s just that my priorities have changed so much that it seems as though it was a waste of time and effort.
Politics seems like such a waste of time now. I can’t change people’s minds. Even if I could change the minds of a few, I believe the future collapse of this society is already set, so it makes little difference what’s done now. But the real issue for me is much bigger than political ideas, even if I could change people’s minds.
I have to change myself.
I’m desperately seeking to become a better person, not in the traditional moral sense as much as something deeper. I need love and connection with human beings — and I keep getting glimpses of what might be possible through such connection. I don’t even know exactly what I’m seeking, but I know it’s found by starting inside and then making connections — spiritually, creatively, romantically and fraternally.
More and more, I understand that meaning in life comes from finding ways to transform ourselves through various kinds of love, understanding and connection. I’m understanding that love isn’t real — it doesn’t exist in a human life at all — without the inner transformation that somehow produces it. (I’ve been trying for the last couple of weeks to write something about love and whether we’ve all missed the point of loving others, but it’s a struggle to understand things I see only dimly.)
I’m growing and changing. I’m not the person I was five years ago. Sure, my personality, skills, intelligence and so forth are all the same, but my heart has grown and my ideas have changed in ways I could barely even see then.
At this point, I wouldn’t write most of what I wrote back then. I’m not going to delete those articles, because I don’t like to feel as though I’m editing the past. But when I notice people getting excited about something I wrote years ago — such as a story that’s been popular this week about why non-taxpayers have as much say in government as taxpayers — I find myself thinking, “Did I ever think that was important enough to talk about? Life is too short to waste it on that.”
(It’s even worse when angry people want to argue about things in old articles. I simply don’t have any interest in doing that, because my priorities have changed so much. Did I make mistakes in things I wrote years ago? Probably, but I don’t have any interest in rewriting the past or in arguing those points today.)
I’m a more mature and loving person than I was then, but I’m not finished changing. I don’t know exactly where that metamorphosis will lead. I just know that I’m better off now than I was then — and I still have a long way to go.
I can live with people thinking that certain of my old political articles are important. I don’t mind if they want to make points with their friends with my old articles. But I feel like disavowing those articles anyway, not because I necessarily disagree with them, but because I feel like saying, “Don’t you see that there are things much more important than these?”
I’ve lost most of my hardcore political readers from four or five years ago. That’s fine. There are plenty of places for them to get what they crave. I’m doing something right now — very gradually — that I have to do, even though it’s not nearly as popular as what I once wrote.
Here’s what is ironic and frustrating to me. The old political articles can frequently get 15,000 to 20,000 hits in a few days when they start being randomly linked. I wince at that, because they’re not really what I think is important or what should be read. But the things I write now that I believe do matter deeply — such as this recent piece about why I choose to love instead of hate — are read by a hundred or fewer people for the most part.
There’s a much bigger market for anger and hate than for love and understanding.
I appreciate those who are interested in following this long struggle to understand love, connection, understanding and belonging. I don’t know where this process leads, but I know it’s much more important than politics.