Re: “After a year and a…”*
Colloquy in Water
“It’s snowing again.” “Don’t mention it.” “Why not?” “I think it’s very pretty.” “It’s cold.” “You want it hot?” “I merely want it to be peaceful. I’d like the sky to rest In its convexity Awhile.” “I never guessed The snow was anything But snow.” “Who says it is?” “I do. Look at it Gently fall. Can this Be any signature But peace?” “A handless, six- sided, shaken sign The globe turns. It sticks Me in the eye.” “Your sight Is snow-blinded. Observe The snow piled whitely there On the cottage.” “The curve Of watery weather In the smooth-lined sky Distorts your looking — bends Your wish into your eye.” “The snow is soft as powder.” “It grains my ear.” “It falls Again.” “No, it leaps up To the tilting glass walls.”
—by Richard Lyons. Published in the North Dakota Quarterly, Vol 30 Issue 4 (1962).
When I die, I’ll leave behind a lot of journals and notebooks. These may be of interest to my immediate family, but they won’t exactly be great leisure reading. The only obvious choices are to keep them in a box in the attic, or eventually throw them out.
There ought to be a third choice. Even the most mundane journal has great value simply because it contains lots of historical information about current thinking, lifestyle habits, values, and events, things which change wildly over long time periods.
On the receiving end, suppose you inherit your great-grandfather’s journal; he has been dead for decades and you never knew him personally. If you can find the time, you pore over it for an hour or two, deciphering the handwriting. You learn some facts about him and how he looked at things. What happens after that?
I have an idea that there should be an archive, a public repository for things like this. You could send in your great-grandfather’s journal for use by future historians. They would digitize or transcribe it, analyze it, and tag it with metadata about who wrote it, when they wrote it, and generally what topics they wrote about. They could allow you to specify that it must remain private until a specified date, and provide you with a digital copy, or even a nice hard copy if you wanted to pay a little extra.
This would give researchers a huge resource to draw upon, and allow the full value of old journals (the sentimental and the historic value) to be realized, without compromising anyone’s privacy.
I had originally transcribed this quote alongside a link to a New York Times piece about the Dunning-Kruger effect:
‘Dunning and Kruger argued in their paper, “When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, like Mr. Wheeler, they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.”
‘It became known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect — our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence.‘
James I and others like him must represet some special subset of Dunning-Kruger, when the afflicted person is also so insulated by their class and power that they can never actually suffer the effects of their incompetence.