Word of the Day
The ending of something, whether the moment or the process.
Note: Although today is the last entry on The Dailies, our "Greatest Hits" archive from our six year history will run next Tuesday.
The ending of something, whether the moment or the process.
Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way” in 1968, after over 30 years in the industry. It was a mild hit in the US but spent a record 75 weeks in the UK Top 5. “My Way” is Sinatra’s song—a fact not lost on Paul Anka, the singer who wrote it for Sinatra. Anka recorded versions of it but instinctively knew it was for Sinatra, who at that point was burned out and dealing with ongoing investigations of his mob connections. Did Sinatra’s circumstances color how he sang, mixing his usual melismatic effortlessness with belting swagger? Maybe. It’s a massive, incredible performance, and it’s no surprise that it became his signature song.
I never heard “My Way” in full until I was in my twenties. Sinatra was my grandparents’ favorite artist (especially my grandfather), but my dad loathed the pride of “My Way.” (Sinatra did too and was reticent to perform it.) He bought my grandparents a well-regarded box set of Sinatra once, but “My Way” was not on it. It didn’t matter to him. I didn’t grow up with Sinatra besides the snatches on my grandparents’ radio in the morning if I stayed over. I discovered “My Way” through its ubiquity in commercials, “goodbye, famous person” videos, and other media, and as a result, I have a very complicated relationship with it. I love the music and performance, but I agree with my dad and also find its ubiquity so very obnoxiously American. It is noisy and braggy but yet touching and powerful. Measuring out a reaction is hard, and not for the usual art-vs-artist debate. For me, it’s art vs. itself vs. what it means.
This is exactly the point that has prodded me with The Dailies for, I don’t know, more than half the life of the site. My commitment here has meant that I have to be consuming things online quite a bit. I see things, filter them for the site, and write them up. The process of seeing involves a lot of seeing, and patterns emerge naturally. I noticed the move towards content farms early on; one of the first essays on this site noted that and we linked to an article called “You’re Good Content, Charlie Brown.” What I didn’t comment on was how the internet was becoming a fury, full off moralism and froth towards whoever was The Other for that particular author. The way these patterns have intertwined so closely with the beauty-focused, joyful things I look for has given me pause. Is this the natural end of a site like The Dailies? Does the search for a glimpse of the sublime always end in disillusionment and bitterness? Two questions hit closer to home. First, what effect does this have on me? And second, how does this site shape the patterns of the people that follow it, and is that in a good way?
I became less assured that this site squarely came down on the “good” side of the internet after reading Laura Miller’s review of Maria Popova’s book Figuring earlier this year. We linked a long time ago to Popova’s site, Brain Pickings, and I’ve always respected Popova’s efforts to highlight classic works and thinkers. Miller’s review made me more conflicted. Popova, she points out, lifts the classics out of their context and foregrounds the “links” between them and the present day—links that are there because she has made them. Popova, a child of the internet, has taken profundity and made it into a scrapbook, full of personal impact at the expense of universal meaning. Miller’s critique rang true, and it made me strongly reconsider my work here. I may not be forcing spurious correlations, but I’m also not highlighting classic works. My province is the temporal medium of the internet. Few of the things I’ve highlighted here will have enduring power. What precisely is the good in that?
On top of that, our view of the internet has shifted. Again, Miller is astute, noting that the beginning of Brain Pickings (2008) was in the last grasp of internet idealism before the mid-2010s made us question whether it was worth being online at all. The influences of The Dailies were Web 1.0 sites, full of idealism, joy, and RSS feeds. They had a less focused, more hippie-ish approach to their posting, willing to go on tangents and include personal experience because who was counting pageviews then? As we’ve stated over and over, our goal is to look for the goodness of the world and enjoy it, and our mechanism for doing that has been the internet. The internet has had other ideas. Four sites have been primary feeders for us; today, I rely on only one of them. One has almost ceased posting. Two others have gotten so tied up in political issues and/or self-congratulating that they’ve ceased to be useful. The rest of the internet has coalesced into content patterns and algorithms. As John Piper has said, the fight for joy is a fight to see, and to be on the internet means to fight a Hydra with a sunflower. I have frequently been left holding a stem.
What’s been more concerning to me has been how I filter links. I’ve tried to keep this site on a specific mission, which has sidelined some of my favorites. That’s fine. What’s less fine has been my growing realization that I’m taking less time with things I read or watch and instead quickly assessing whether they’d be a good Dailies link. I once wrote on this site about the need to look at things; recently, I’ve done little of that. Some of that is circumstantial: my life is very different than it was in 2013 when this site started. I have a larger role at work, a home, and other responsibilities. And, to be honest, I’ve realized that a lot of it isn’t worth spending a ton of time on. I haven’t read books partly because I spend an hour each night on the website. I want to get back to that. I want to get back to watching thoughtful films more often. I want my time to be spent on things that truly matter, and paging through the internet has increasingly not been worth it. I don’t want to be leading others to be doing this either. For its readers, The Dailies occupies a spot in a long content-consumption feed that is daily internet usage. It’s consumed in less than five minutes, then on to the next. If I’m not breaking through the distracted static of the internet—and I agree with Postman that the form dictates content, which means that won’t be the case—then this site is contributing to the very tendencies it’s trying to abate.
Reader, I’m ending this. It’s not a decision that comes quickly or easily, but it’s time. George Washington’s going ho-o-me. And time has been one of the interesting things I’ve learned while doing The Dailies. When I first created the site, my creative director suggested keeping the site minimal and easy to update. He was right. The lightweight nature of the site kept it going far longer than it had any right to. But the time/sustainability questions were always there. A year and a half after I started, one of my coworkers was surprised I was still running the site. I saw many other things wrap up in the last couple years—newsletters, websites, TV shows, companies, relationships. All are reminders that time is short and should be spent wisely. As middle age becomes less than far away, I’ve been thinking often about how I want to spend my time and the patterns I need to build for myself. The Dailies doesn’t pass the bar of value. As much as I want to see it continue, I also know that I have a tendency to hang onto things far too long out of misplaced idealism and pride at not being the one who quits. Frequently, ripping the bandaid off and moving forward is the best path.
The site that had the biggest impact on me and this site, The Mid-Majority, called it quits in two different ways. First, the founder quit after seven years of going to 100 mid-major college basketball games on a shoestring Patreon-before-The Athletic model and turned the site over to the fans, who ran it for three years. Then, after ten years, the site shut down for good. The founder pulled it offline, and it was understandable. Living semi-out of your car for five months is no way to live, and neither is subjecting yourself to predictable health issues. He did both, for the site. He endured stalkers, the worst of sports fandom, being cut loose and erased from ESPN, and more. His decision was selfish, frustrated, emotional, and fair. Five years later, he brought the site back and wrote a final, more mature and peaceful epilogue. It’s post #1475 on the site. By my best count, I’m at post #1465, writing on a daily schedule year-round. It’s time to go.
But I am thankful for this. The Dailies never achieved what I wanted it to, not fully. It never caused the mutual sharing that I hoped it would. I’ve learned that I’m uncommon in that aspect, and the site reflected me. To the people who read it often, my sincere, deepest thanks. To the people who have had a bigger impact on the site—Erik, Aditya, Curt, Steve, Julia, Steve, Jack, Aimee, Mom, Grandma—I hope you realize how much I and the site owe your support and friendship over the years. I’ve appreciated that immensely. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to see how I’ve changed over the time I’ve done the site and that the things I look back on most fondly have changed. I’ve learned that I do things for mixed motives more than I’d like to admit. I’ve also learned that showing up is a skill, one that can be practiced and separates people.
I’ve thought of starting a new creative project (because, y’know, that’s what every creative professional with a shred of empathy and pride does). I even had a name, rough layout, idea for how it would run, everything. I’m not going to do it. It’s time to cease striving at the wind, let the mystery be, and leave margin for better flourishing. I’ve had a good run. It’s time to diminish and go into the west.
GoodbyesEssaysSo long, and thanks for all the fishThis is the endIt's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday?