I am thinking about a horrified email I once received from someone who had signed up to follow this website. I always intended to write something here in regard to this email but I was in Northern Thailand then, where I spent most of my time staring out at the rice field next to my house. Soon after I finished reading and reflecting on this email, I went back to staring out at the rice field next to my house, and I never did write anything here as I intended. The objection could be raised that, after two years, it is too late for me to fulfill my intention–but I say it is never too late to fulfill one’s intention, and indeed, if one still believes in an intention he has conceived after two years have passed, he has a duty toward himself to fulfill it.
Hence I do not say: it is too late; I say: it is time.
But you must be wondering why this man who wrote me was horrified and what he wanted. Like most of us, he was horrified because things are as they are, and what he wanted was for things to be otherwise. We spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing what is and demanding what cannot be. Thus it should come as no surprise that the email I received was of this character.
What he wanted was to receive a simple notification when new content was posted to my website. Why he was horrified was because he was receiving the content itself, in email form. Via the lamentable medium of his web-based email software, he tried his best to imbibe my recondite ideas, but the flurry of flashing banner ads that assaulted his senses and impaired his powers of concentration was sufficient to frustrate this noble effort. My website, he said, was a thing of unwonted elegance, and he insisted that it was the only suitable place–outside the pages of a book–for writing as elegant as my own to appear. For this reason I must, by hook or by crook, stop the content of my website from entering the polluted reservoir of his ad-laden email box. No more words, only links–he implored me.
Up until this point in my life I had been immune to flattery and criticism alike, but this intoxicating brew of unmerited compliments I was so kindly served by my disgruntled correspondent must have gone to my head because, no sooner had I finished reading his email than I fell into a panic such as cannot be described envisioning my Latest Solemn Discourse on Life and Death written in so fine a style as to provoke the envy of both men and gods besieged like a defenseless lamb on every side by flashing banner ads perpetually generated by a society fallen under the Satanic spell of commercial enterprise. Was this the way I wanted the jewels I had crafted presented? Was this the gruesome fate reserved for the last great aristocrat of literature?
There was something contagious about the discontent of my correspondent which prompted me to search frantically for a way to fulfill his request. Determined that no word of mine should ever again enter the polluted reservoir of the ad-laden email box of this or any other person, I vowed to send out nothing but clickable links to the content on my website. But, as it turns out, I vowed something impossible, a thing that could be dreamt but never accomplished: yes, owing to the total inflexibility of this free version of WordPress which I use, my search for a method was vain.
Thus, dear reader, as much as I would like to, I cannot spare you the traumatic experience of receiving my latest posts directly in your email box, trampled beneath a stampeding herd of flashing banner ads for the foul and degraded products of this fallen world. New content is automatically sent out by the system to those who have signed up; and this, like so much else in life, is beyond my control. I can, however, assure you that I share your horror. And I take this opportunity to exhort you in the strongest terms: when you receive my latest post via email, do not read it. Close your eyes and pretend nothing is there. That email contains nothing, is nothing–nothing more than an invitation to make your way to my website and read what I have most recently written as it naturally appears in its proper milieu. Would you accept the idea of a polar bear in the desert, or of a giraffe in the mountains? Of course not. And no more should you accept the idea of my writing in your email box. What in God’s name is it doing there? That is not its natural habitat. That is not where it belongs. For this fine advice, should you benefit from it, do not thank me but Michael, my perceptive correspondent, whose experience and sentiments I have done no more than transmit without change or embellishment.