I was waiting to name my blog until the White House came up with a new name for the Conflict Formerly Known As The Global War On Terror (COFKATGWOT); I’ve pretty much given up on that now. We are fighting an anonymous war with unspecified goals against Those Who Cannot Be Named and that’s the way it will stay for a while.
But just because our civilian leadership cannot settle on a name for the high stakes conflict now being fought on six continents plus cyberspace by the largest and most powerful military and intelligence forces in the history of the world against an unspecified constellation of people and organizations seeking to destroy American power and western civilization for reasons that cannot be described in polite company is no reason for me to have an anonymous blog.
So: welcome to Via Meadia.
The name expresses four things about what I’m trying to do here.
First, it alludes to a famous Latin phrase ‘via media’ or ‘middle way’. The via media is a search for the path between two extremes. The via media is the sweet spot, the golden mean. It is Baby Bear’s porridge, neither too hot nor too cold. Traditionally many moralists have thought that the golden mean was the path of virtue. If you are too bold, you are rash. Not bold enough, and you are a coward. Hit the sweet spot and walk the middle way, and you are courageous. If you are too slack and too generous with your kids, you will spoil them. If you are too harsh and too much of a perfectionist, you will ruin them another way. Find the middle path and you will be a firm and loving parent who keeps the affection of your children while helping them form the habits and develop the skills that will enable them to lead rich and rewarding lives.
The middle way isn’t an insipid compromise, a repudiation of excitement and creativity in the name of predictable dullness. It is not about settling for mediocrity. The goal, rarely reached but sometimes approached pretty near, is to have it all, to combine the virtues of the extremes while offsetting their vices, rather than replacing the fire and drama of the extremes with a muddy caution.
In politics as well as in morals, I like that approach. There are values in the extremes and in certain unusual situations you may have to go there, but the extremes by themselves are usually insufficient. In Special Providence I found myself sympathizing with all four schools of American foreign policy — yet feeling that none of them on its own would quite do. I respond positively to much of what liberals believe — but I don’t think we can deepen and preserve our liberal way of life without a healthy infusion of conservative policies and ideas. I’m often the most liberal person in a conservative room — and the most conservative person in a liberal one. Well, as Martin Luther might have said in my shoes: here I dither, I can do no other.
Second, the phrase ‘via media’ has often been used by Anglicans to describe their attempt to find a road between Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity. I’m not sure how successful we’ve been over the centuries, but since I think the attempt is worth making, I’m happy to have a blog name that expresses that. Back when I was innocently blowing up cherry bombs in Episcopalian summer camp, our counselors (some of whom must have been seminarians), taught us the Anglican fight song, sung to the tune of “God Bless America”. To wit:
I am an Anglican, I’m C of E, [Church of England]
I’m neither High Church nor Low Church
But I’m Protestant and Catholic and Free.
Not a Luthie, nor a Presbie
Nor a Baptist, white with foam:
I am an Anglican, just one step from Rome,
I am an Anglican, via media, boom! boom!
Third, the title Via Meadia could be translated as “Mead Way” or “Mead Street.” In a way that books and journal articles don’t, posting on Via Meadia gives me the chance to address all the subjects that interest and concern me. Over time the blog may end up expressing and conveying both the way my mind works and the world view that is implicit behind many of the more polished things that I publish elsewhere. Via Meadia is the street that wanders through my mental neighborhood and over time the posts may add up to a far more comprehensive form of communication than other forms of writing.
Finally, from my point of view, Via Meadia also means “my way.” Our literary culture today is dominated to a historically unusual degree by editors. Many of them do a very good job and I’m personally indebted to the great editors I’ve worked with at TAI and other places. More than once a thoughtful editor has prevented me from making an ass of myself in print. (‘Not often enough,’ I hear some of you saying.) But when I post here, the words go directly to the reader. When I post, as Frank Sinatra would put it, I do it my way.
If you don’t like it you are of course free to move on; fortunately many of you out there seem to like at least some of what you read here. We will soon be celebrating our first million hits. And for those of you who liked the site when the blog was anonymous, stick around. At this point, I still feel like John Paul Jones — “I have not yet begun to post.”