Michael KreponAddicted to Edginess

Lyric of the week:

Black and white
Brown or tan
Every woman
Child and man
Rich or poor
Gay and straight
We ain’t got time for hate
– Shemekia Coleman, “We Ain’t Got Time to Hate”

Dear Readers,

It’s time to take a brief break from the woes of this world, including the continued demise of diplomatic accomplishments that reduced nuclear dangers and weapons.

There are always silver linings: A one-year postponement of the 2020 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference would be a significant gift, a chance to reset the conversation among stakeholders.

Other postponements make me deeply sad. For a kid who grew up reading Baseball Joe: Home Run King, springtime without this man-child game in which the golden ones amaze hits hard. A guy who lives in this area wrote a sequel, Calico Joe, except with a dark nod to Tony Conigliaro. The dark nod in lesser hands rubs off our humanity.

My friends, we can choose light or darkness. We’re becoming addicted to edginess, so when the world turns off axis, we risk falling into darkness.

The indicators for our addiction to edginess are too numerous to catalog. The movie industry is no help to us; it has fallen deeply into escapism, sociopathy, and our inclination to unease. We all have our particular ‘sticks like a craw’ examples of the edginess around us. Mine, since I seek to avoid the obvious and am showing my age, include the poems and cartoons in my beloved New Yorker.

I’ve always been drawn to poems that have soft edges and that appeal to my humanity. If Robert Frost were an aspiring poet today, the New Yorker probably wouldn’t publish him. Too sappy and woodsy. I can’t get past the first few lines of almost all the poems that are published in the New Yorker. It’s been this way for a while. The images are discordant and the words edgy. Why go to poetry for this when all you have to do is turn on the television?

Apparently, the arbiters of taste in poetry are too much of this world, or I am too much of an escapist. Egads, the drive for younger readers addicted to edginess has affected the New Yorker’s cartoons, too.

If we are to maintain some sense of balance in these hard times, I urge all of my fellow citizens to impose a strict, hard limit on cable news consumption. Moral indignation and insistent male knowingness aren’t good food for the soul. Tell me something once, I get it. Tell it to me three times and you’re insulting my intelligence.  (And that’s my preferred channel. The other one – the one with personalities that drip poison onto grievances – is becoming better but still wounds deeply.) One family can do more than any other to help democracies regain their equilibrium. I’m thinking, of course, of the Murdoch family and daydreaming that it will decide to take the remaining poison dispensers and their closest buddies off the air.

In the United States, we need two political parties that are capable of getting off their soap boxes and tackling hard problems. We have only one. We won’t have two until the poisonous drip of selected Fox personalities dries up. What the Murdoch family’s pursuit of profit has done to the state of democracy in the United States, Great Britain and Australia fits my definition of a high crime.

Donald Trump is a manifestation of the world the Murdoch family has given us. For your mental health, I strongly advise limiting to three minutes your direct daily dose of him. News outlets can give you the short form. I know he’s as mesmerizing as a train wreck in process, but why become an involuntary passenger on his train?

If you break down analytically the minutes of any thirty-minute segment on cable “news,” it becomes easier to cut back. At the top of the hour there are maybe five minutes of actual news. The remaining twenty-five minutes are taken up by speculation, yakking, and commercials. You know who the yakkers are: they keep saying the same thing, they speak in 300-word, non-stop passages, and they tell you stuff you already know. The faster they talk, the more I tune out. You also know who is worth listening to, but they’re surrounded by yakkers. The mute button is your friend. It’s not just for commercials. Practice manual dexterity. It’s good for your mental health.

Cutting back on that which doesn’t serve you is one-half of a strategy to get through hard times. What’s the other half of a strategy? The following works for me; please consider these remedies.

Go outside and stare at the bark of a tree. Consider its contours and texture. Get lost in God’s creation. Even better is to study the contours and lines of an elephant’s skin, but that takes some doing.

Take time out of a day filled with concern to listen to music that makes your heart sing. You might start with the Shemekia Coleman tune above. You know the music that changes your disposition. Why not go to it?

Take time out to stare at the sky. Watch the clouds drift by. Find a spot to get on your back and practice social distancing.

Read a poem that reaffirms your humanity. Here’s an oldie-but-a-goodie, “America” by Walt Whitman:

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

This is a short list. Additions are hereby solicited.


  1. Aubrey Grace (History)
  2. luludevault (History)

    To Build a Swing

    You carry
    All the ingredients
    To turn your life into a nightmare-
    Don’t mix them!

    You have all the genius
    To build a swing in your backyard
    For God.

    That sounds
    Like a hell of a lot more fun.
    Let’s start laughing, drawing blueprints,
    Gathering our talented friends.

    I will help you
    With my divine lyre and drum.

    Will sing a thousand words
    You can take into your hands,
    Like golden saws,
    Sliver hammers,

    Polished teakwood,
    Strong silk rope.

    You carry all the ingredients
    To turn your existence into joy,
    Mix them, mix

    – Hafiz

  4. Michael Krepon (History)

    From Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar, courtesy of my sister, Belleruth Naparstek:


    What if you thought of it

    as the Jews consider the Sabbath—

    the most sacred of times?

    Cease from travel.

    Cease from buying and selling.

    Give up, just for now,

    on trying to make the world

    different than it is.

    Sing. Pray. Touch only those

    to whom you commit your life.

    Center down.

    And when your body has become still,

    reach out with your heart.

    Know that we are connected

    in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

    (You could hardly deny it now.)

    Know that our lives

    are in one another’s hands.

    (Surely, that has come clear.)

    Do not reach out your hands.

    Reach out your heart.

    Reach out your words.

    Reach out all the tendrils

    of compassion that move, invisibly,

    where we cannot touch.

    Promise this world your love–

    for better or for worse,

    in sickness and in health,

    so long as we all shall live.

  5. Michael Krepon (History)

    Italians under lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak crisis have inspired people around the world by singing and creating music together from balconies despite not being able to leave their homes.

    A montage video showing Italians serenading one another in high rise apartment buildings and playing music together was “a kind of triumph of spirit,”

  6. Phil Tanny (History)

    Ha, as it happens, I just this morning killed my Twitter account. I gave it a good faith honest try for a couple months, but finally concluded it wasn’t a good use of my time, and was certainly contributing to my typoholic edginess addictions.

    The best part of your article for me was “get lost in God’s creation”. Well, I’m not sure who’s creation it is, but getting lost in it is definitely a good plan. There’s a great state park just 4 miles up the road from our house, and I’ve spent a LOT of time there the last 20 years. It’s essential to what remains of my sanity. I’d be there now, but it seems I damaged my foot from way too much hiking.

    I’m deeply conflicted about edginess.

    On one hand, there’s typically a lot of male ego agenda going on in online edginess land, and it’s true a little bit of that can go a long way. I’m just glad that I never do that ego stuff, given that I’m so much more mature than everyone else. 🙂

    On the other hand, I really do believe there’s an important role for exploring the boundaries of the group consensus and doing so, however politely, inevitably leads to an edginess experience. The entire Internet, including the most intellectual sites, often seems like little more than a collection of mutual validation societies with everyone chanting memorized group consensus slogans so that they’ll fit in and be accepted.

    What to do? Be philosophical and bring some much needed edge to the chanting group consensus? Or be philosophical and accept that it’s always been so and likely always will be, and none of us stand any real chance of putting much of a dent in the chanting?

    When I’m in the woods I know the later choice is the wiser one.

    And then I get home and turn on this stupid computer. I blame this whole darn edgy thing on Steve Jobs!!! 🙂

  7. Michael Krepon (History)

    My buddy, Neil Joeck, tells me he is reading Whitman.
    Mother sister, Carol Krepon Ingall, offers the following:


  8. Michael Krepon (History)

    Neil Joeck offers this snippet from Whitman:

    “Turn O Libertad, for the war is over

    Then turn, and be not alarm’d O Libertad—turn your undying face,
    to where the future, greater than all the past,
    Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.”