Technically, we're not getting the first snow of the year - it snowed a little on Christmas Eve, and a little the Friday before that. But this is the first substantial snow that we've seen. In fact, I don't remember seeing any snow of substance last year, either. This is real snow - inches of it. The kind that you have to keep shoveling over and over just to keep up with it.
And you know what? I love to shovel snow.
There's just something very productive about it. You take this pile of snow, and move it over there. You clear a path. It's very satisfying.
Where have all of the ideas gone?
I've been thinking a lot lately about the kind of men that used to engage in politics in America and the kind of men that do so now. I'm not going to make the normal comparison that we hear so often in regard to the difference between politicians today and those of yesteryear - that they're greedier today, or more corrupt, or slaves to campaign contributors, etc, etc. Those arguments are made elsewhere by people who, quite frankly, understand far less about politics in America than they like to pretend.
No, what I've been thinking about is how few of our politicians today...well...think.
The art of thinking is becoming a lost one in America, and in no way do I mean this as a disparaging commentary on the intellect of elected officials today. I know for a fact that we have some very smart people serving in elected office today.
What I'm talking about is the fact that we as a society have really come to devalue the art of thinking about problems. We live in a world faced with some of the most complex problems in the history of humanity, and yet as a society we are incapable of comprehending anything beyond a 30-second soundbite. As a result, our entire political system has, I believe, lost the ability to think deeply about the challenges that we face, and what the solutions to those challenges might be.
Having spent some time engaged in politics as a profession, and as someone who considers political commentary and observation still something of a hobby, I can probably tell you within a minute or two how each of the major political parties views, and would seek to solve, the problems facing America today. And the answers to these problems have not changed substantively for decades. This is not because the problems are so simple that the answers are obvious - or that the answers are so good that they've withstood the test of time. Rather, this situation exists because our politicians view everything in the context of the soundbite - the only method of consumption of information which the electorate appears to be equipped to comprehend.
As a result - what has happened to the readers and the thinkers in elected office? What has happened to the late night conversations around the fire over whiskey and cigars about how to solve the signature issues of the day? Floor debate in the legislature is almost exclusively for show - politicians rely on committee chairs and staff for the decisions that they are required to make.
As a result of this lack of real, substantive debate - this lack of dedicated critical thinking about the problems that this country faces - I believe that we are losing the ability think critically. We are losing the ability to solve problems, and this should scare all of us.
What am I listening to?
I've been streaming Medeski, Martin, and Wood radio on Spotify a lot lately. If you like jazz, you'll like these guys.