Erik van Mechelen

December 15, 2021

Germinating Seeds

Research and writing and seeking truth in 2021 has been humbling and has opened many doors. This year brought the opportunity to coauthor three books and work on two others. Playing the role of title workshopper for more than 45 authors was also a window into the world's transition toward speaking up. Friends and acquaintances have sought me out to talk about their work and bring their writing to life. That creative spirit and outpouring of energy is a welcome release for the holder and receiver. Money and energy should not be hoarded. (Money is a kind of energy, isn't it?) Consider your knowledge, your "know" ledger—hat tip Travis Corcoran, author of Restoring Reason: How the Ancient Liberal Arts Defend Against Modern Manipulation. The information you "have", best drawn and described from your experiences, could be put to others to tinker with, in attractive ways from the written word to video to music.

Giving thanks for these exchanges has become a daily occurrence. In the most promising cases, the exchange is not transactional but offers a sense of deepening. No doubt those relationships have given me as much to consider and ultimately output through writing than the chance happenings I enjoy in walks around the neighborhood or in the unexplored turns of the city. 

When it comes to writing, at my best, readers will apply logic to inputs I offer and draw their own conclusions. Aside from a brief study of The Logic Games Bible ahead of sitting the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) the week after graduating college, it was made apparent very recently that I'd never formally been taught logic. Have you? 

The application of logic to premises and the careful drawing of conclusions is a fundamental departure from talking heads, from influencers, from teachers, each of which have the answers that will come on next week's "test," whether that test is in the form of a political correctness at a neighbor's barbecue, the purchase of a certain 'on-brand' brand, or the decision whether to examine the school curriculum having looked into the books your sons and daughters are being exposed to.

The difficulty, the work, the real test, is whether you can overcome the deceptive voices in the shadowy corners of your mind which assure you it is just fine not to apply logic to inputs and see for yourself what the outputs turn out to be. Inconvenient truths aren't welcome from the standpoint of the status quo.

From one vantage point, truth is a conclusion drawn from legitimate premises. Only with complete and accurate inputs can logic be applied to arrive at a destination. Pack your bags and get to the station, wait for and get on the train, ride it, and see where it takes you, getting off where it makes sense to—even if you've discovered you set out eastward but would like to head west after all. Meanwhile, the whispers from the dark recesses suggest you can go ahead and accept the broad brush stroke premises as given, because "I'm an expert" or "I'm a CEO" or "You trusted me in the past." But these are examples of appeals to authority, a rhetorical appeal that is, I submit to you, to become a red flag for you going forward, an indicator to stop and think. By think I mean to use logic.

If I am to take personal responsibility for how my mind works, then it suggests a more thorough investigation of many basic premises, from how I live day to day, from the kind of work I engage in, to committing to defining terms in simple conversations.

In the first case, some of my routines no longer suit the person I've become. Put them away, try on new ones. Like cross-country skiing the last four days (including with our kitten). In the second—the work I do—though it won't be the only thing I do, I'm sensing a pull into a bit of citizen journalism. Grateful as I am for not having fallen into the trap of employment to traditional media where I might have developed bad habits, there's nevertheless much groundwork to learn how to write, how to find subjects, and how to represent them. Robert A. Caro is a mentor, through his work. There are other mentors who I'm in deep gratitude toward. So, in what will I invest this reporting? Perhaps as Martin Geddes plans to do in the UK, I'd like to see what is going on in Minnesota, where I've chosen to be, to help those aiming to make life flourish receive more light. (If you know of people, regular people, doing interesting things with integrity, whether homeschooling or starting a farm or a new business, please let me know.) For instance, a friend of mine bought wooded property outside the city and has intriguing plans for the acreage. On the third point in the prior paragraph, I'm trying to fall less for given manipulations of language. For instance, by a simple definition of a liberal—one who is pro liberty and freedom—and a conservative—one who desires to conserve what works—I bet that every single person reading this is both a liberal and a conservative. (Even the Amish use a surprising amount of technology despite colloquial connotations of their primitiveness.) It is only the political language that has twisted these words to suggest incompatibility, when, to me, they are inseparable, and not only in the sense that a well run society needs both types of people, but indivisible within each individual. That sentence reads analogously to Solzhenitsyn's well-phrased point about good and evil driving right through every man's heart. Perhaps it is where we put our attention that matters in the end. That's a choice, isn't it?

For me, much has depended (to paraphrase Nikola Tesla) on not focusing on the external but rather on attending to that which is within. Else, those vulnerabilities would remain untended and may grow like a cancer.

An example of how those weaknesses manifested this year: because I was easily angered, I lashed out at those around me. Similarly, I wrote in a flammatory tone, which saw more than one hundred people, about 17 or 18 percent of readers, leave my email list. Recently, I've begun more intentionally practicing the application of logic to new information or even outright attempts to disturb me. With patience, I don't always have to react when others pressure me to; instead, I can simply wait for more data to be gathered or new information to be released.

On the latter point, I've lately become very interested in declassified government documents. The fact a document is classified to begin with suggests the record was at one point not for public disclosure. Was that so that you and I couldn't react? That's not always easy to discern. This year has made me privy to layers of psychological operations... a post on this to come. 

Of many declassified documents, some dozens or even hundreds of pages long, in particular those relating to Nikola Tesla, appeal greatly. You may know him for the AC induction motor—U.S. patent 382,279 (filed November 30, 1887)—which was fundamental to developing today's power grid more than 130 years after the patent filing. There were yet more spicy ideas in the trunks he left behind. His ideas feel like seeds which have long been germinating, ready to sprout. If you don't mind me expressing a kind of yearning, I imagine the general application of some of them we will get to see rather soon, in our lifetimes. If you've not yet come across those to which I'm referring, there is plenty of enjoyable exploration ahead of you!

Getting into 2022, expect further evolution of how these writings come into your inbox. Many of you are simply on for example the All the Books newsletter because you were colleagues or connected professionally. As always, feel free to unsubscribe at the bottom. However, if you took something with you from this essay, consider sharing it with one other person who might benefit. I've lately been very thankful for a couple of readers who reached out to me to speak on previous writing—one in person, my favorite way to talk! I was enriched by both of those conversations. I write in part to learn something, to process inputs and create an output; that said, real-life conversations are a bonus and a blessing.

How many more seeds will germinate if we have the patience and the courage to see them grow?

Where to read more from Erik: 

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