Belmont Club

The Ten Thousand

Marc Danziger at Winds of Change says he’s going to take a vacation from blogging.

So here’s my plan. I won’t be writing here for a while, if ever. I will move this site to WordPress, so that the archive can be preserved and maintained and others who have author raights may decide to pick up their participation. I will also relaunch the old content from my Armed Liberal site so it’s available as well.

And then I’m going to take a break from all this and think about what interests me and where I might fit. I’d love to hear from you what you think I ought to do – suggestions here are most welcome!

It’s the ten thousand rule.

Once, at the first and only time I ever sat on a panel in New York City, I described the pressure that comes with having a modest readership. “When you’ve got ten visitors a day you can say what you like. When you have ten thousand, you become very careful.” The other rule, which Marc has probably discovered, is that at ten visitors a day you don’t give a hoot whether you write that day or not. When the site gets to a certain level of traffic, that luxury disappears. You have to show up every day because you know ten thousand readers will. The only thing worse than having your own business is having a moderately successful blog.

Marc probably owes it to himself to take a break. But in what does a break consist? I asked one writer what he would do on vacation. After some thought the reply came back, “work on my book.” Hmm. I have this theory that a vacation has less to do with what a person does on a holiday than with the circumstance that he doesn’t have to do any of it. There may be some people whose idea of fun is to get into one of these tightly structured tours where you follow around a guide who holds up a sign. But a holiday planned with the precision of a commando attack may not be everybody’s idea of a good time.

The other theory is that a genuine break always consists of a change. In that model, a mental worker can go out and recharge his batteries by building a cabin or chopping his way through an enormous woodpile. This theory has the virtue of appealing to balance. When we do too much of one thing, it poisons us until we rid ourselves of the toxins by doing something else.

But the ultimate vacation is the temptation to walk out on our own lives the way we walked into the way we are. We don’t want a vacation. We want a new life. You can call this the “Lost Weekend” theory of leisure and there are two sides to it. Down one road is the sad realization that we’re stuck in a rut and might as well accept it. A vacation in this world, is a chance to fool yourself into thinking that you’re not stuck, just waiting for the right time to start your new life.

There isn’t any cure, besides just stopping. And how many of them can do that? They don’t want to, you see. When they feel bad like this fellow here, they think they want to stop, but they don’t, really. They can’t bring themselves to admit they’re alcoholics, or that liquor’s got them licked. They believe they can take it or leave it alone — so they take it. If they do stop, out of fear or whatever, they go at once into such a state of euphoria and well-being that they become over-confident. They’re rid of drink, and feel sure enough of themselves to be able to start again, promising they’ll take one, or at the most two, and — well, then it becomes the same old story over again.

But then again you might actually do it. Maybe all true vacations are ones in which risk and uncertainty are ultimately accepted; where the vacationer really goes out the door not merely apparently, but actually. How many of us really trust ourselves enough to regard the door as really open?

He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: it’s springs were at every doorstep and every path was it’s tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”

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