This week, I finished editing 13 Ways of Looking at a Bureaucrat: Writings on Governing, and realised that this collection of essays is also a kind of memoir. It is a way for me to use my own history to live mindfully in the present. Bringing it to publication has made me realise how long I have reflected on the issues of political disorder. It also allows me to let go of many things that, as they say, no longer serve me.
I begin the book with this description of my career as a bureaucrat
When I look back now on my life as a bureaucrat, I see a man lost in a maze. The man imagined himself into this maze. His imagination threw him into this maze. The maze was made from images and mirrors of power, and at the centre of the maze, so the story was told, was the minotaur of power itself.
This lost man, who called himself alternately writer and bureaucrat, both with blends of pride and shame, wandered lost in this maze for thirty-three years. The maze of power was not a diversion from life. It was the necessary adventure of my life. Few who called themselves both writer and bureaucrat have left the maze.Jeff Rich, 13 Ways of Looking at a Bureaucrat
13 Ways of Looking at a Bureaucrat will offer something new to the world I hope – the honest reflections of a literary bureaucrat and historian who has witnessed the collapse of Western liberal democracy, from behind the stage curtain. It will be available as a paperback and ebook in July 2023 (all going to plan, fingers crossed).
There is a meditation that looks for the universe in a grain of sand. My upcoming book looks into my very, very minor career as a failed bureaucrat, and finds the universe of today’s political disorder. I include as an epigram to the book this quotation from Shakespeare.
Yet, Warwick, in despite of all mischance,
Of thee thyself and all thy complices,
Edward will always bear himself as king:
Though Fortune’s malice overthrow my state,
My mind exceeds the compass of her wheel.
(Shakespeare, King Henry IV, IV 3)
My book is a story of survival. My mind did, finally, exceed the compass of the wheel of power. I will let you know when the book is out.
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