I don’t have much to say here, other than to provide some explanation Re: the title of this site, and what it is intended to represent. You likely will have deduced that it is a mashup of “Democratic” and “Lobster”, both of which are references to the work of David Foster Wallace (aka DFW or Wallace herein). Let me explain, starting with the latter.
DFW’s article “Consider the Lobster” was ostensibly about his experience at the Maine Lobster Fest. As with much of hiswork, it’s rife with tangents, which is part of what makes it so enjoyable. For instance: he works through the moral implications of boiling a lobster alive (a practice that is 101 stuff in the lobster-cooking world), in the face of thrashing behavior that occurs prior to death, which implications end up depending on how you feel about the relative moral standing of lobsters (and, perhaps, of animals generally). There’s a lot in the article that’s worth considering, but it culminates in this:
“Still, after all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing over the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience.”
My admiration here is three-fold. 1.) A significant implication is that pages of honest, rigorous intellectual exploration are an essential part of establishing Wallace’s baseline of credibility with the reader, and it is only on top of that credibility that he can deliver a conclusion which ends up being based entirely on his own subjective experience, which, in the end, matters more than the exploration ever could have. I believe that credibility/subjectivity cycle is all the more important in an age where we must simultaneously make use of an unprecedented abundance of information, and cut through it. 2.) Which brings me to what I think is another important takeaway, one that I think characterizes much of Wallace’s work, which is that “feelings” are not necessarily synonymous with experiencing emotion, but instead amount to something more like “trusting your gut” or “trusting your heart”, while also making clear that if your gut/heart isn’t connected to something wholly outside of yourself, it’s not worth trusting at all. 3.) I would also say one of the main thrusts of the whole thing is that, if my feelings of desire end up causing me to ignore my feelings of empathy (even for something as lowly as a sea bug), that’s Not Good, but also it’s something I have total power to correct if I really want to.
The Democratic portion of the DemocraLobster is not meant to refer to democracy as a governmental system, nor the democratic party, but to the “Democratic Spirit” as an ideal way of existing within a pluralistic society, as described by DFW in “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage”1:
“A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a very difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain; particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a D.S.’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity – you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually. This kind of stuff is advanced U.S. citizenship. A true Democratic Spirit is up there with religious faith and emotional maturity and all those other top-of-the-Maslow-Pyramid-type qualities people spend their whole lives working on. A Democratic Spirit’s constituent rigor and humility and honesty are in fact so hard to maintain on certain issues that it’s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp’s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and to believe that any other camp is either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.”
It is my hope my writing will be characterized by constituent rigor and humility and honesty. Conveniently, the above quote doubles as a good example of the kind of style to which I aspire as a writer2. More on this here.
- You can find a scan of the original article here3 : http://harpers.org/wp-content/uploads/HarpersMagazine-2001-04-0070913.pdf. You can also buy both articles (as well as several of his other short non-fiction works) in a book titled “Consider the Lobster” wherever you choose to purchase your books. ↩
- That being said, it is unlikely that you will get my writing confused with his, despite my best efforts. ↩
- This is what will pass for attribution on this site. ↩