Sometime at the last gasp comes peace
To every soul.
Never to mine until I find out and speak
The things that I know.
Welcome to Near-Earth Object, a website, newsletter, and podcast (coming soon!) by me, Paul Fidalgo. These are the falling years.
First, an introduction.
This is a project through which I, an odd duck, work through the problem of how to be a person in the world. That’s it. Through written and spoken words, my own and those of others, I try to figure out what to think, what to believe, and how to feel. And then I publish it for the public, which is frankly the most dubious part of this whole enterprise.
As I hope you’ve guessed, the name Near-Earth Object is not about things that float in space. It’s about the experience of being part of something—be it a family, a society, or a species—while also being slightly outside of it. It’s about being part of a cosmic system, but in an erratic orbit.
This newsletter is intended to serve as a regular conduit between me and whoever else out there who might find value in watching this process unfold. I’ll certainly highlight my own work and happily direct you to it, but it will also be an opportunity for me to share thoughts and ideas I’ve collected from other sources, old and new. The format is known as a “newsletter,” but it will not be “newsy.” While commentary and reflection on current events is unavoidable, my hope is that any edition of this publication could be read by someone in the far future and found as worthy of their time and attention as it would be the day it was published.
Speaking of these times...
The tagline of this project, “These are the falling years,” and the lines —that appear at this newsletter’s opening—I read at the show’s opening, all come from a poem by Robinson Jeffers written around 1940 titled “For Una.” In it, Jeffers writes about a stone tower he had built for his wife, a place of solitude and sanctuary for the two of them and an expression of his love for her. But he is writing while processing the apocalyptic horrors of the Second World War, which at the time must truly have felt like the end of all things.
I’m beginning this project in the autumn of 2020, the Lost Year. This is my personal creative endeavor, and it’s happening against the backdrop of the anxiety, fear, disappointment, disillusionment, and despair of our current age, and there’s no getting away from that. These truly are falling years.
And though I am an odd duck, I am not a young one. According to actuarial tables, I’ve just kicked off the second half of my life, meaning I have fewer days ahead of me than I do before. I am a near-Earth object in a descending orbit. These are *my* falling years, too.
“Never weep, never weep,” wrote Robinson Jeffers. Well, I certainly won’t tell you not to weep. But there is much to see and much to say in between the tears.
Thanks for taking the time. If you’re still interested, read on.
Two years ago, almost exactly, I wrote a piece expressing a sort of resigned panic about the state of the republic, and essentially asking the reader—but really, I suppose, asking the gods—to tell me how I was wrong. At the time, I was afraid that I was being melodramatic and overstating the problem.
But I wasn’t. Not even a little. The only part I got wrong was assuming the problem would be demons besting angels, when the fault, I fear, will lie with all the people in between who could do something about it, but don’t. And knowing all of this, I don’t know what to do with it.
Directly relevant to my prophecy of institutional cowardice: I have been thinking a lot about courage lately.
Maybe … there’s a ‘love thy enemy’ that is more hopeful, a kind of wish that one’s enemy will see how they are wrong (in wronging you, wronging others, wronging themselves), with a sincere desire that said enemy will become what one believes they can be. At best, it’s wanting something better for one’s enemy, but it’s conditional. To truly receive the love one has for one’s enemy, that enemy has to work for it and have something to show. It’s like love in escrow.
Courage versus laziness: “In the end, laziness is about being unwilling to endure discomfort. Courage is being willing to heap it on.”
What I’m reading
I’ve just finished Alan Jacobs’ new book Breaking Bread with the Dead, and I suspect it will fuel some future bloggery sooner than later, but for now, just know that it is a wonderful lesson in achieving what he calls “personal density” and “temporal bandwidth,” (a concept I have previously referenced here) and it has made me eager to, not escape into, but realign my attention to old books.
Speaking of which, for a few years now I have been dipping in and out of Seneca’s letters, and this bit about where one should seek out wisdom is relevant.
“Whom,” you say, “shall I call upon? Shall it be this man or that?” There is another choice also open to you; you may go to the ancients; for they have the time to help you. We can get assistance not only from the living, but from those of the past.
Do we have the time to accept that help?
I have a Patreon if that’s a thing you’d like to help out with. Behold, the button: