So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…
It’s a weird feeling doing this again after over a year away. It took a tremendous lurch forward from a rather apathetic lull to even dare to log into the site and brush away the digital cobwebs. And it’s not as though the world helpfully pressed pause in the meantime. The way information is consumed has changed, and appetites today crave short bursts of salty pith rather than the more languidly composed thousand-word meditation. Never the sort to use one word when ten will suffice, I wondered often over the past few months if it might be better to quietly shutter this old blog and slip unnoticed off the stage. It wasn’t as though the nation was turning its lonely eyes to me and begging me to come back.
Where have I been all this time? To continue the “Mrs. Robinson” reference, the story goes that Joe DiMaggio approached Paul Simon after that song charted and insisted that he hadn’t gone anywhere. Well, neither did I, really. I was still here, quietly scrolling my social media feeds, reading friends’ posts, buying their books, silently supporting their success wherever possible, but at the same time, feeling that there wasn’t much of a place for me in that world anymore. I began seeing so much unfiltered ugliness everywhere across the Internet; venom and sewage gushing from every available orifice, a constant flow of hateful effluent swallowing everything that had been good and hopeful about these marvelous technologies that allow us to reach out and connect with each other across the world. Election Night, November 2016 really did feel like the moment Biff gives his younger self Gray’s Sports Almanac and skewers reality into a dystopian alternate version of itself that was never meant to be. I won’t pretend things were perfect before, but there was a distinct tonal shift at that moment in that the bad guys had unexpectedly taken the hill and the good guys were suddenly under siege in a way they had never been before. The very rules of the conflict had been rewritten right from under us. You’re not supposed to be able to win this way. Moreover it didn’t feel like a fight I wanted any part of anymore – dueling trolls is spiritually exhausting and for each one you vanquish, fifteen more will rise to take their place. Was it really worth courting that kind of intrusion on my sanity just to be one more participant in the boundless cacophony trying to find the most clever, clickable manner of pointing out the terminal stupidity of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
I tried to write about other things. I got back into baseball only to see my team collapse, and there are only so many compelling narratives to compose about constant failure in sports. Eventually I lost my passion for that as well (writing about it, not actually watching the games in constant hope of a surprising turnaround) and 2018 came and went without me writing a single word, apart from a couple of holiday tweets to reassure friends and followers I hadn’t died. Like a gym membership purchased with the best intentions on January 1st and cancelled before February, it is incredible to me how easy it is to not write a word. It wasn’t as though I had nothing to say about what was going on in the world, I just didn’t feel that my saying it would be terribly helpful in the Age of Rage. Did the universe really need the natterings of yet another cisgender white male, however well-intentioned, handed down from upon his privileged perch as though it were etched upon stone tablets for the ecstasy of the masses? I felt utterly phony, and that the best thing I could do was shut up and retreat into the ether without waving a flag about my oh-so-noble departure, and let others far more deserving have the microphone. It does often seem that the most appropriate approach in certain debates is not to enter them, so I stayed out, week after week, month after month – cheering my side, facepalming at the machinations of the opponent, and always keeping my own counsel.
The desire to write again never truly ebbed, even as I refocused on family and career (and not always, regrettably, in that order), like a chronic itch in need of periodic scratching. It was too easy to talk myself out of it though, to submit to more passive pursuits or offer up the common excuse of being incapable of finding the time. However, life still felt that something was always missing at the edges, as if I was just idling at 95% of the way to what I was supposed to be. But every time I thought about opening up the laptop and banging something out, the counter-argument roared to life again, asking me if I really wanted to add to the cesspool. As I had no decent answer to that, I shrugged my shoulders and let another day slip by without touching the keyboard – surfacing only periodically on my locked-down Instagram account to share a picture of me at a Jays game or some interesting creature wandering through my backyard.
As the calendar finally turned on 2018, what likely should have been a very obvious thought struck my addled brain: whoever said you had to add to the cesspool? Why such a hopelessly narrow perception of the possibilities? The list of topics one can discuss are literally limitless, and moreover, why should they be filtered through a cheesecloth of negativity? No one is telling you that you must weigh in on the pitiable state of Western democracy or that you can’t offer a thoughtful commentary on The Last Jedi without calling for heads to roll. Why not write about the things you like about the world instead of spending hours editing and re-editing ripostes about the things you don’t until they are polished sabers of snark? Isn’t the better way to be heard above the noise to simply sound a different note?
Be a voice.
When I am gone, hopefully many, many decades from now, the things I’ve written will survive me, and I would rather they (and I) be judged as someone and something that tried to engender smiles and thoughtful reflection in readers, rather than the tired wails of a perennial malcontent who bemoaned the state of the world but couldn’t be arsed to try to improve it, however incrementally. What good does that serve anyone, least of all myself? Who is Graham Milne, and what does he really want to be? Angry or hopeful?
Pardon the rambling; you’ll forgive me for being a bit out of practice at this. The Coles Notes version is that despite a few false starts, I’m here, I’m back, and I’m sticking around for a good while. I respect the limits of your time and while I cannot always guarantee it, I will do my utmost to ensure that what little of it you are able to spend here with me is not wasted, and does not leave you feeling worse than when you first clicked the link.
Allons-y, mes amis.