Robin Sloan
The Reading Room
April 2021

Two charms

A small carving of a hedgehog, made from blue stone, attached to a short length of rough twine.
Hedgehog amulet on a string, 1750–1700 B.C.

Writing to the Con­vivial Society, L. M. Sacasas discusses infor­ma­tion and anxiety, even dread. Near the end, he invokes his intellectual lodestone:

In a talk Ivan Illich gave late in his life, he made the fol­low­ing observation: “Learned and leisurely hos­pi­tal­ity is the only anti­dote to the stance of deadly clev­er­ness that is acquired in the pro­fes­sional pur­suit of objec­tively secured knowledge.” Then he added, “I remain cer­tain that the quest for truth can­not thrive out­side the nour­ish­ment of mutual trust flow­er­ing into a com­mit­ment to friendship.”

You could chew on that short block­quote for a long, long time. It offers at least two phrases that, for me, glow like amulets:

There’s “deadly clev­er­ness,” of course — a sharp little dagger.

But really, the power is in “learned and leisurely hos­pi­tal­ity”. Put that on a string and carry it around your neck.

From Oakland,


Sent to the Reading Room committee in April 2021