A Farewell to ABiasedPerspective: Goodbye, Old Friend
All good things come to an end, so they say, and it is no different with this little blogging project of mine. ABiasedPerspective was many things- in some ways a publication unto its own, in some ways a public diary of my personal intellectual development through my college years, in some ways a snapshot of my state of mind at varying points in life, in some ways my mode of communicating important personal developments to the world, and, most recently and self-consciously, a repository for those writings of mine I wanted to preserve and present, but could not get published anywhere else.
This eclectic, rambling little electron scroll, both my darling conscience and my guilty pleasure, was thus more ragtag than Andrew Jackson’s army of pirates and frontiersmen at New Orleans, or maybe Theodore Roosevelt’s raucous Rough Rider regiment. It never had an overall purpose in the entirety of its existence, try as I did every once in a while to bring order to its chaos with such a purpose. No, it took on a life of its own, and I couldn’t guide it any more than I could guide the eclecticity of my own thoughts. The historical interpretation, political theorizing, news analysis and commentary, theological-philosophical banter, half-rate poetry, and personal messages sprinkled through this archive will probably someday be fodder for readers and maybe biographers trying to understand just what the heck was going through Luke Phillips’s mind all these years.
One of the nice things about having a personal blog is that you have something to brag about, and more, a little personal forum to publish things to send to people you admire. I’ve sent things to favorite writers and thinkers of mine from here, including Morley Winograd, Robert D. Kaplan, Joel Kotkin, Adam Garfinkle, and Geoffrey Kabaservice, and usually gotten a pleasant response and a pat on the head. I’ve received unexpected, out-of-the-blue comments from random readers and subscribers (there are more of you than I ever realized, and I thank you sincerely for your patronage and readership!) I’ve even made a few friends across the blogosphere, surprisingly enough given my sometimes incendiary polemicism. It’s been a good four and a half years or so.
One of the things you learn from maintaining a personal blog is just how hard it is to write, and how much harder it is to write well. I’m very guilty of the solipsistic-prodigy-complex so many of us romantic young writers fall into, when, like Lincoln in his 1838 Lyceum Address, we overuse our newfound rhetorical talent (or lack thereof) in, retrospectively, embarrassingly ostentatious displays of bombastic, tasteless wordiness not unlike this one. Soon, one learns that fancy styles and chiasmic tricks do not a prosist make. You also learn, to your humiliation, that you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are- sometimes less than a week after you publish some brilliant masterpiece, you a) discover or remember a piece of writing by someone else who argued your points much more eloquently, or b) you read it again and realize it makes much less sense, is much less convincing, and has many more spelling errors, than you thought it did. You’re tempted to delete or make private the post, but it’s too late- a lame friend has already shared it, or, as happened once to me to my horror, some low-level news site has quoted it (and it happens to be the one thing from the early years of your blog that sounds a little bit like racist apologia in retrospect…)
But it’s ok- it’s all ok. Especially if you’re an undergrad like I was (and will, hopefully, shortly cease to be) this kind of overenthusiasm is normal. Within bounds, it’s healthy. It’s better to be zealous and calm down a bit when prudence-puberty hits, than it is to be sluggish and failingly attempt to force yourself into action. You just need to realize it in due time.
And again- to write, or not to write, that is the question- it’s * usually * better to write. You get practice sitting in front of a screen, you gradually come to find your voice and internal standard of excellence, you learn how to be original, and sometimes, you write something genuinely interesting and worth remembering. Off the top of my head this early morning of the last day of November 2017, there are a few pieces from over the years I particularly remember, and that I’m particularly proud of.
There was the Progressive Republicans piece that kicked off two years’ worth of failed blogging projects when a college graduate from Iowa reached out and told me I should set up a website. There was the angry op-ed about campus radicalism (which quoted Peter Viereck!!) in which I took my side, in history, against campus “conservative” radicalism and what would become the stuff of Trumpism. There were those unfortunate moments when I toyed with Trump-as-not-so-bad, and there was that one time I realized I was wrong and told the world. There was my endorsement of General Petraeus. There were all those attempts to devise my own theory of American cyclic history, attempts that look silly-ly simple in retrospect. And how could I forget, of all my pieces on California, the geopolitics of California…
And more. I am particularly proud of my Pontius Pilate meditation on political amorality and Christian living. I’ve written (bad) poetry here; one particularly awkward rage poem the day after a hard breakup, a dandy little jingle about Inspiration Point (my favorite little spot on the Potomac,) a tribute to Rudyard Kipling dissing Bill and Hillary Clinton and Co…. The list goes on. My “Why I Don’t Want to Be President” piece was fun to write (and remains one of the most frank and honest things I’ve published here) while my dear friend Sophia Justice Warren’s lambasting of Do You Hear the People Sing gives me chuckles all the time. Some reflections on Odysseus and Aeneas’s manliness were fun to write as well.
I had the opportunity to publish interesting historical tidbits, as well. I’m particularly proud that my blog hosts the only digitally-published version of A Call to Excellence in Leadership, the Ripon Society’s original manifesto condemning Barry Goldwater-style conservative radicalism, on the web- not even the Ripon Society itself hosts the piece. (I painstakingly copied a scan of the original newspaper, which I acquired via the Inter Library Loan system.) I consolidated the teachings of Niccolo Machiavelli, Alexander Hamilton, and Edmund Burke, as interpreted by the excellent thinkers Isaiah Berlin and Clinton Rossiter, into sets of thematically organized meditational aphorisms, and published them here as well.
There was another piece on my epistemology that, for my money, pretty well encapsulated the spirit of what I was trying to get at with the blog’s title- namely, that a skeptical empiricism, tempered further by the humble admission that we each come to every question not with clear-eyed realism, but with a biased perspective, our own set of assumptions and experiences that shape how we understand truth. It is as a lead pipe in a gaseous cloud; we can feel the pipe in there, but we can’t know the pipe, or even see what it actually is. Thus is the human dilemma (and I’ve more recently learned that Hume came up with this understanding before me. That’s ok; Hume’s a brilliant man, as anyone who inspired my hero Alexander Hamilton must be.)
And finally, this blog has been the site of some of my meditations on my six-year (so far) struggle with mental illness. Here I first advocated universal childhood therapy. But here I also published a long, winding meditation on my departure from Philmont Scout Ranch due to a depressive incident. It’s been a real honor, after seeing the responses to pieces like these, to know that people care; it’s been a real release of a burden to know that I’m not hiding anything. Maybe that’ll come to haunt me in due time. But I’d rather be open and honest about it than hide a dark and unfortunate part of who I am and what I live than, as so many others suffer through, lying to myself and the world about one of the things defining my experience.
So there’s a brief survey of some of the highlights of the dozens- hundreds now? I’m not sure- of ramblings I’ve posted at this site over four and a half years or so of blogging. It’s been a lot of fun. Why, then, am I getting rid of ABiasedPerspective?
A couple of reasons, but first things first- we each go through seasons of life. There is a time to reap, and a time to sow; a time to heal, and a time to kill; a time to blog, and a time to archive your blog and turn to other pursuits. So it is with where I am right now; now is the time to turn to other pursuits. ABiasedPerspective reflected my college mind and character; I hope as I move forward, my writings reflect a more matured me, my young professional and budding intellectual mind and character. As habits and places tend to stick, it’s important to change them when you hope to change other things.
So where am I headed from here? Well, if and when I graduate from the University of Southern California (hopefully two weeks from now, my last credits have been completed, inshallah, though they will be over eighteen months overdue) I will head back to Washington D.C. Things are in the air right now- I might be doing communications work for the National Park Service, I might be doing freelance journalism and policy research for my long-time boss Joel Kotkin, or knowing my luck, I might be doing something else entirely. But in a month I am planning on being a young professional with a unique skillset to offer the world, and a unique point of view to offer it as well. My new writing strategy will mirror that, and the rambling reflections and half-baked writings of ABiasedPerspective don’t fit well into that strategy; I need to be sharper in my writing, more purposeful, though no less circumspective and styled.
I’ll be shifting operations to my other site, lukenathanphillips.com, which has hitherto been more of an online resume than anything else. Sometime soon I’ll update it to include another blog. This new blog- just the updateable page on lukenathanphillips.com- will be different in kind from ABiasedPerspective, though I haven’t decided all the details yet. It will probably be more shortform, and focus on sharing articles others have written, articles I’ve written, and brief “hot takes” on big news issues and stories. In that sense it’ll be less a diary-repository and more a traditional blog the way public intellectuals these days host blogs. That, I hope, will make it more useful and readable to people other than me.
In any case, this is not the end, but a transition- a transition to a new beginning, which will, I hope, be grander and more interesting than anything so far.
I want to thank everyone who’s been with me on my writing journey thus far, all of you who’ve stuck by me, supported me, even just read my work up to this point. I promise you this is not the end, and you won’t be disappointed. Just follow me at lukenathanphillips.com, where I’ll be posting links to all my subsequent work and continuing blogging. And as usual, you can contact me on Facebook or at email@example.com.
For anyone who hasn’t blogged before and has been thinking of starting one- stop thinking about it and just do it. It’s a rewarding experience, requiring nothing but the desire to start and a laptop computer. It’ll take you places, and it’ll help you remember the places (term used broadly) you’ve been. I wouldn’t trade the experience of having had a college blog for the world.
But again- all good things come to an end. So ABiasedPerspective, old friend, thanks for the good times.