Reader DS wrote me offline asking if I had written a book or anything that might help him understand the fuller context of what I write here, and I sent him the intro to a book entitled Wandering in the Wilderness I started around 2000-01. Back then I tried half-heartedly to find a publisher, but I worked for several years as an editor in the book publishing world, and I knew that what I wrote didn't have a market. It was clear to me since I came to Seattle in '85 that I wasn't writing as a part of a larger community of discourse, and the feedback I got was that what I wrote was interesting in an eccentric way, but not in a way that makes books salable. They were right.
At the time I was more interested in thinking about culture and changes in consciousness. But then the invasion or Iraq came in 2003, and it challenged my assumptions that what had started with Reagan was aberrational and that we would soon return to a normal. It became clear that dangerous minds were now in the American society's driver's seat. Bush, the neocons, and the whole phenomenon of the fringe right of my youth having become legitimized and taking center stage in my middle age then became a preoccupation for me in a way it was not before. It continues to be one of my central concerns.
So I began to think about politics and power more than about culture and consciousness. But in the early days, I also posted chapters from the book, like "The Hypertrophied Eye", and when I did, nobody responded or cared, it further confirmed for me that there was no market for the book, so I put it aside as a project to which I might return when I retire, if at all. And focused my energies on this blog.
As I've said, I've worked in the book world in the late 70s and early 80s at The Seabury Press during the Mark Linz days, which at the time was the main publisher in America for the best European theology like Rahner, Schillebeecx, and Kung, and Americans like David Tracy, Langdon Gilkey and many other lesser lights. I was the in-house manager for the Concilium series, and had occasion to hang out with them at one of their meetings in Nijmegen. We also published interesting stuff by Adorno, Canetti, and Milosz. It was a great place to work, but it was owned by the Episocopal Church, whose board thought it was too Catholic or secular, and after much intrigue the more interesting part of the company split off into what became Continuum Publishing, which now apparently has been absorbed into Bloomsbury.
But by then I was burned out on academic theology. It seemed to me to becoming more irrelevant with each passing year, and I just didn't care about it anymore. For personal reasons I chose not to go to Continuum, and instead took a chance with an ill-fated publishing start-up in the middle of the Reagan first-term recession, and then left the east coast for Seattle, where I've been since and, after a short stint with the university press here, have had nothing to do with the book publishing or academic theological/philosophical world.
Maybe because familiarity breeds contempt or because I worked in the industry at a time when the writing was on the wall regarding its future viability, I have never had a particular need to get published. A decent sale of our books was in the 5K to 10K range within a year. I acquired a short book by Henri Nouwen, with whom I took classes at YDS in the 70s, about the Egyptian Desert Fathers--The Way of the Heart--that sold 40K and made me a local hero for a while. Now my blog is very, very small potatoes by blog standards, but when I'm active on it, it gets between 3-4K pageviews a month. So I have been happy to use the blog as a vehicle for thinking about stuff I care about with a freedom I would not be permitted if I have to make it fit a publisher's criteria of marketability. I consider my posts as bread on the water--or messages in a bottle. If they reach other readers, great; if not, that's ok, too. I'm grateful, though, to those of you have been readers and commenters here. You've enriched and clarified my thinking immensely.
So anyway, after DS asked me about the book, I read its introduction for the first time in years, and I thought I'd post it here. It's about 4200 words, and I have to say that I was surprised that it holds up and that so much of what I've written in the last decade is more or less an elaboration of what is contained in it. I've posted it with a few minor tweaks after the jump.