The Dailies

Word of the Day

Lexicon (n., LECKS-ih-CONN)

The vocabulary of a language or a profession, or a dictionary. Typically, it takes 2,000 words to be proficient in a language. We're halfway there.

Gif of the Day

TagsCounting up1,000CheersBumpLikedLivin' on a prayer?

Link of the Day

Dailies 1000: Pilgrim at whatever creek

Today, The Dailies turns 1,000 (days). One thousand words, over nine hundred gifs, and nearly eight hundred links hand-coded and served up at a redirecting URL every weekday.

The Dailies started over four years ago. The web in 2013 was quite different than the web now. RSS was clearly going away (largely due to Google stupidly pulling the plug on Reader), but it still clung to life while social media rose. The listicle sites, aggregators, and social sharing hadn’t completely won out yet. Also, people still thought advertising was a viable form of supporting oneself on the web—and that you could support yourself on the web. Four years later, all has changed. Advertising is dead, affiliate links are nearly dead, social media has won the day, small sites have shuttered, and making a living online is four times as hard.

The Dailies has remained unchanged. Our layout, publishing engine, schedule, hosting service, writers, and focus are exactly the same as they were four years ago. This has been a mixed bag. The site was built to be easy to maintain—an incredibly helpful suggestion from my friend and creative director (who is always right)—and that’s helped it to stay alive even in a busy schedule. But by committing to the schedule and format, I locked myself into a lot of grueling work.

The two direct antecedents to The Dailies were A Show with Ze Frank and The Mid-Majority. (If you’ve ever seen me wearing a black t-shirt with an m inside a circle on it, that’s from The Mid-Majority.) Both were imaginative and thoughtful spins on existing formats, clearly birthed in a web 1.0 era. Both ended. A Show ran two unconnected years before Ze Frank became EVP of Video for Buzzfeed. The Mid-Majority ran ten turbulent years in multiple formats before owner Kyle Whelliston unceremoniously pulled the plug and started a new life. Although both sites had wonderful runs and many followers, they both exhausted the people who ran them.

I’ve always been aware of burnout possibilities, and I never intended The Dailies to be big. I intended it to be sustainable. Is it? I don’t know. I know that I’ve often wondered whether or not it’s worth continuing. The tangible reward for the one-hour-every-day effort is nearly nonexistent. The site makes no money, and there is no monetization plan. The only payback has been the “Oh, I really loved that thing you posted the other day. So cool!” Those rarely come in 2018.

And, truthfully, any reward from The Dailies will probably be intangible and not something we reap the benefits of. We kind of intended this, too. The goal of The Dailies, unchanged from the beginning, has always been to see the beauty in the world, think deeply about it, and enjoy it. C.S. Lewis was completely right when he said that “art has no survival value; rather, it gives value to survival.” Good art demonstrates beauty. Beauty unmakes us, because in it we see the sublime. Everything snaps into focus from there—but a vibrant, vivid kind. Where there were shadows, there are now colors. Where there was a sleeping flower, there is now a bloom.

A cynical, secular age with its own myths has no place for art and beauty because it disrupts its worldview. Art forces us to reckon with the world and the things inside it differently. Holding up the mirror to oneself is useful, but looking out the window at the world is far better. When we look at the stars, we see someone else and feel like ourselves.

We never finished reading “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” but we read enough of Annie Dillard’s book to be enthralled. Dillard lived in a cabin near Tinker Creek for a year, writing about her experiences wandering around the area, seeing nature and writing about it. It’s not just words, though; it’s enrapturement. Consider this vignette, and Dillard’s reaction:

The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

We all have our own creeks to wander around. We all are part of this great big beautiful world. Exploring and seeing it are necessary.

The Dailies will end sometime. It may change. But we will never stop looking at the world around us, finding the beautiful things in it, and marveling at them. (We may even pull out an Owen Wilson “wow” sometime.) And as long as we are here, we will beat. into. your. heads. the need to be looking up and around, walking outdoors, smiling as you inhale slowly and deeply, and searching for the beauty in everyday events. The least we can do is try to be there.

TagsRetrospectivesCalvin & HobbesBeethovenC.S. LewisAnnie DillardZe FrankKyle WhellistonThe worldOde to joy