I want to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason. I want to be a good person. This blog is a consequence of trying to do this and finding every path blocked.
I write about individual motivation and integrity, useful and effective action, coherent and realistic positions – and about intimate connections between them. I focus on identifying places where positions split and conversations derail.
I believe that doing is more important than explaining, but I find explaining to be the most worthwhile thing I can presently do. I want to be prescriptive, but I’ve mostly stayed descriptive. I have many thought-through practical positions, but I’ve mostly prioritized theoretical abstractions.
In part, I’ve done this because there are many more people willing to do those other things. But mostly I’ve done this because practical efforts get stuck in predictable disagreements which hurt action and sink motivation. I think that a systematic way to preempt, address, or deflect these is on the critical path. I think that a Dictionary of Arguments offers such a way.
I’ve accepted that it isn’t possible to reach unquestionable truth or universal agreement: all positions are ultimately axiomatic systems. But I remain convinced that belief in absolutes is essential and positive: it grounds motivation, competence, and ethics. I find both passionate action that ignores the unchangeable and dispassionate correctness that sacrifices motivation to be misguided and all too common. I summarize my defense of each side in Laws of Absolute Belief and Plurality and offer a way to bring them together in Plurality of Absolutes.
While I spend a lot of effort to understand and describe theoretical underpinnings of positions neutrally and accurately, my own absolutes are ultimately on the side of competence, contribution, agency, nobler happiness, and cohering conversation.
To know the difference
The tagline comes from the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
A close runner-up was “To the other side of complexity” from:
The only simplicity for which I would give a straw is that which is on the other side of the complex — not that which never has divined it.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
But as much as this blog is about rising above simple models and solutions and the difficulties of doing so, it is even more about the terrifying place on the other side. The paradox embodied by the Serenity Prayer awaits there – which grants it tagline status. Plus it ties nicely with the blog’s name.