I learned in high school not to begin essays with definitions. It’s a tired method of looking clever. It says: “Here is a complex concept, stripped clean of context and artifice, distilled down to something mundane and colorless.”
Then I realized that this is really just the case because we read crappy dictionaries. Through James McFee, via James Somers’ brilliant blog, I learned about The ARTFUL Project, which, among other things, gives you access to the 1913 AND 1828 Webster’s Dictionaries—books that, instead of giving the reader the most simple, reductive representation of the word, attempt to illustrate all that word can do.
So I typed in a word that’s been weighing on me awhile, one that I’ve kept top of mind: Hiatus. As defined by the 1913 Webster’s, hiatus means: “An opening; an aperture; a gap; a chasm; esp., a defect in a manuscript, where some part is lost or effaced; a space where something is wanting; a break.”
A space where something is wanting.
For a long time now, I’ve been wondering what I wanted to do with this blog, this little slice of internet that I’ve reserved. When I started it, I was purposefully unemployed and looking for a way to reconnect with who I was and what I loved; yet I quickly became uncomfortable with the concept that this space would simply be a recounting of my personal preferences and passions. Books—and music, and food, and drink—but most of all books, are more important to me than that. They’re bigger than me, and I want them to stay that way. I really struggle against what I find to be the popular practice of reducing art down to simply whether or not you enjoyed it—the notion that things have only the value that we attribute to them—they have no value of their own. I find that today’s discussion about literature is often only an evaluation of whether or not you liked the book—instead of a thoughtful exploration of what the book is doing. Obviously the enjoyment of art is a large part of experiencing it, and I often—through trips and music and food—work to extend that enjoyment to the other areas of my life—but that isn’t all art is. I think we need to try harder than that, and I didn’t want to be part of that problem.
So I stepped away from the site for a while. Though one shouldn’t think by coming back I have any answers. I don’t know that I’m any less part of the problem than I was before, I simply know that I still think people should be talking about these things—that I want to keep talking about these things. I still think there’s a space where something is wanting.