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