This Foul Year of Our Lord

(With respects to Dr. Thompson)

It’s been a long summer for Burnaby – the publishing worlds April Fool. We’ve spent the summer hunting down writers who weren’t too put off by our unorthodox business model, which yielded some strange results. Fortunately, this is a profession that takes to quarantine fairly well. The biggest complaint was “Why is my family still in my office?”

Will it work? That remains to be seen. If we’ve learned anything in this Foul Year of Our Lord, it is the need to simply think it through. We’ve spent the last decade in the intellectual equivalent of speed-dating, and it shows. A long lingering dinner with a second bottle of wine may not have the frantic excitement, but it is a hell of a lot more satisfying. So, let’s stop getting into twitter slap fights with the perfect strangers, or the President, over headlines and bombastic flatulence. You’ll get further with a long look at the situation, stop assuming you already know the answer, and apply measured doses of both logic and creativity. It’s much more satisfying.

Which is why Burnaby has a Classics arm. Sure, everyone of these thinkers would fail the smell test by today’s silly standards, but they’ve seen it all before: plagues, identity politics, religious war. You don’t have to agree with their world-view, it’s probably best that you don’t. Understand, though, that you are more likely to learn more from watching a failure than a flawless performance. The truth is that success in life has a lot more to do with avoiding potholes than maintaining perfect aim.

The solutions to the problems that we are facing don’t have to be perfect, they’ve just need to work, mostly. Humans, left alone, are great at just good enough. After that you are dealing with a much smaller problem, and fine tuning is easier that burning it down and starting from scratch. To forget history’s lesson in order to re-write society is to regress a place at the dawn of anything that we’d call civilization.

That’s fine if you have the stomach of Ur-Nammu, sitting in the shadow of the Ziggurat of Ur, forming a society out of the desert wild. But you don’t. And there isn’t one person currently living who does. For one thing, what he was calling a society would fill a modern ZIP code.

So, think it through before you burn it down.

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