Journal Entry: Commentary on My Writing, and on the Future of Robots with Hearts

Isaac Hollander McCreery, 7 February 2015

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written. Two months, in fact, at least since I last published. I think I burnt myself out a bit writing the Big Articulation: it took a solid month to get from idea to finished essay, and by that time, I was just about ready to be done with writing for a while. It’s time I get back to it, though, and so here I am, churning out a quick poem. I feel inspired to write and moved to start on some projects that have been swirling around my head recently.

Commentary on Dissatisfied

Here’s the poem again, for reference:

I want friends who will cry with me
And with whom I can cry;
Who will come with me to confront Lord Death
And all his handsom brothers.

I want friends who will push drugs on me
Love, alcohol, ambition, coffee …
Then wrest them away from me
With tenderness and compassion.

Because life and love are simple, really:
They are full, that’s all.

Won’t you come cry with me?
I want to see tears on your face, and feel tears on mine.
Won’t you come tear me from my clothes?
I want to feel your skin, and see my skin reflected on yours.

Last year, I spent a lot of time polishing my writing before I published it. I would write an outline, flesh it out, draft once, draft again, polish, revise, polish again, then publish. While I think that process is great for getting the best product, and is a process I need to practice, it’s an intimidating process, too, and one that I think has stifled my writing, since I don’t always want to spend 30 hours on an essay. Sometimes—quite often, actually—I just have an idea, and I want to write it down.

As I was meditating this afternoon, I was overcome with a sense of appreciation and desire for deep love and kinship. As I finished my meditation and walked back to where I am staying, I began constructing a couple of stanzas, and by the time I got back to the room, the whole poem, pretty much as you see it, fell onto the page. I thought, since it had been so long since I had published, that I ought to just publish it as is. It feels strange, because it is far from exact, (which is part of my incentive for writing commentary,) but I am happy to be publishing again, and I am happy to have something less polished out in the world. It reminds me of the ethic of ensō.

I’ve already explained the immediate context for this poem, but I’ll give a little more. As I’m getting ready to settle in Seattle, I’m struggling with the change. I haven’t slept in the same city, let alone on the same floor, for more than a month in the last six months. What will settling bring? What will I leave behind? I think this poem is a reflection, in part, of what I imagine a stable community might bring into my life. Intimacy, though, is by no means guaranteed, and, in my experience, is hard to find on the outskirts of a 40-hour week: I think this poem is also a reflection of my fear that settling will bring stagnation without closeness.

The second stanza also might benefit from some explanation. I’ve opened myself in the last two years to alcohol and tobacco, and in the the last two months to caffeine, in ways I never would have expected. I’m thankful that I haven’t become strongly addicted to any of them, but I have noticed that all of them have their allure, and caffeine especially has gotten me mildly hooked. Having drunk tea or coffee four or five times a week for the last month, my mind feels sluggish now when I haven’t had tea after lunch. A frustrating state, certainly! And one that I hope to rectify soon with a solid month without caffeine.

I’m glad the last stanza ended up in the poem as well. As I was composing it, I was thinking of a particular person with whom I hope to get closer. (If you know me personally, and you think you know who I’m talking about, you’re almost certainly wrong.) I didn’t like how the first couple of stanzas sounded in the second person, but the last stanza feels good. The tug that I felt as I finished my meditation seemed to go beyond emotional intimacy; I’m not sure if it was a tug for physical intimacy or not, but the final couplet remains vague enough that it doesn’t feel untrue.

The Future of Robots with Hearts

For more than a year, the descriptor, “A blog about society and technology” has hung under the title of this blog, but after a year, that’s changing. When Charlie, (who wrote Thrown and Scattered,) and I originally envisioned Robots with Hearts, we were struggling to reconcile our enjoyment of—and skill with—mathematics with our desire to do concrete, meaningful work in the world. Having lived with that dilemma for a time, and having left the cloister of higher education, I’ve been moved to write about society and about my own life, but never about technology, except as it applies to the other objects. It only feels right, now, to relieve myself of the burden of writing about technology, so, the tag now will be simply, “A blog about society”.

There is another exciting development here at Robots I’d like to take a few minutes on: contributions. Since I started publishing a year ago, I knew a big part it should be working with other people on their writing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed working with other people on their writing: I get to learn about their style, their life; and I enjoy helping people articulate their ideas. It’s nice to contribute to something that isn’t mine … I get to craft without the stifling blankness of a white page. I like talking with people about their writing: I’m sure everyone has things to write about, and I just get to pull it out of them.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how I wanted to be collaborating with friends and colleagues, in writing and in other pursuits. It’s embarrassing to realize that five months have passed, and I haven’t done much collaborating at all. It’s intimidating to ask people to write with you: I have to expose myself to them and at the same time ask them to do the same. It takes either a sense of self-assuredness, or courage, or both.

Over the last three weeks, a friend and I have driven across the United States, staying with friends the whole way. Something about the experience of being welcomed into so many people’s homes—some of whom I consider my closest friends, others mere acquaintances of friends—has finally ignited my courage to reach out and ask people to write with me. It’s exciting. I’m also starting to think more seriously about divinity school, and I think that’s got me more accepting of my desire to work with other people and their ideas. That’s also exciting.

So, here it is in writing. It’s February, and I haven’t written much recently. Until I start work in mid-March, I’ll publish at least one essay and one piece of fiction or poetry of my own each week, and, not counting this week, also publish one piece from someone else each week. That’s eight pieces of my own and three of others’.

Here’s to writing!