Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Pragmatism’

Be Local. Be moral.

In Life, The Examined Life on June 28, 2012 at 6:00 am

We have a strong “Buy Local” movement here in Portland. I support the effort. If possible, I spend my dollars within walking distance of home. It is how I invest in my community. It’s like attending to a garden in your front yard. You water it and nurture it. It makes home a better place. I will even pay more if need be, it is that important. A neighbor recently confessed that he buys his books at Amazon, even though his close friend is co-owner of Longfellow Books, our local indie bookstore. He claims to be “too tight-fisted a yankee” to do otherwise. He has crossed a bridge to a dry land devoid of ethics and morals.

The web page for our local movement includes the Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local. They are:

  1. Keep dollars in Portland’s economy
  2. Embrace what makes Portland unique
  3. Foster local job creation
  4. Help the environment
  5. Nurture community
  6. Conserve your tax dollars
  7. Have more choices
  8. Benefit from local owner’s expertise
  9. Preserve entrepreneurship
  10. Ensure Portland stands out from the crowd

This was lost on me prior to moving to Portland. It is difficult in the land of big-box chain stores and scraped-earth retail to appreciate what local–even what community–means. But that was then, an unenlightened time. I now realize that it’s a social pragmatism, informing members of a community, where one finds the only rational basis for moral behavior. (Nietzsche said that “Every true faith is infallible, if it accomplishes what the person holding the faith hopes to find in it.” )

* * *

It is not silly to personalize the list above. Let us consider:

  1. Make your efforts local first
  2. Embrace and nurture a personal uniqueness
  3. Foster creativity (in yourself and in others)
  4. Help the environment
  5. Nurture community
  6. Conserve
  7. Make good choices, based on a personal ideal
  8. Practice expertise (“Become who you are.”)
  9. Practice entrepreneurship. (An entrepreneur is someone who possesses a new idea.)
  10. Escape the herd. Be an individual.

Pardon me if I sound evangelical. These are the tenets of my religion and this morning I am a missionary.

The well gone dry!

In Creativity, Philosophy, Thinkers, Writing on February 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Since “retiring” my little blog-workshop two months ago, it appears that my creative life has gone down the drink, has indeed retired too. I’m not sure what is going on, but in an effort to focus my energies–stopping the blog, stopping the essays, curtailing the reviews, concentrating on my “book project”–I’ve lost them–my energies–altogether. To quote William James:

Sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.

I can’t speak to destiny, but by uprooting my habit(s) I’ve killed off what precious little fruit they bore. I have sown nothing. Garnered nothing in return.

I believe that the pattern of our life, the very structure of day to day living, affords us a(nother) way of infusing existence with meaning and purpose. Meaning is that which works, said the pragmatists.*  I disrupted the pattern, killed off the habit. Nothing working–meaning, kaput. I upset the applecart and am hereby announcing my effort to right it. “God keep me from ever completing anything,” wrote Melville in Moby Dick. Goodness, but I know how he feels.


* Was Sisyphus happy, Camus wondered, because he knew the secret to happiness to be meaningful work?