To My Dear Friend Brent Chamberlain #2: I’m Going to Keep Posting Letters to You

Dear Brent,

How are you friend? I’ve been meaning to write for ages. First things first. 

I fear that, if you are alive and checking my blog at all, you could be getting the impression that I’ve forgotten you when nothing is further from the truth. I think about you everyday—several times a day really—Alicia does too. Besides obvious reasons for not posting (busyness, baby, pandemic, primals research, etc.), the main reason is fairly simple. Unfortunately, its not appropriate to share about it in a public note like this. All I can say is that I became quite unsure how to proceed regarding your disappearance. The good news is that that situation seems to be resolving to the extent it can, and, if I could explain everything, I’m 100% confident you would sympathize and completely understand why my silence does not reflect any diminished affection. So I would ask you to trust my judgement so two things can happen. First, I can accept your forgiveness and understanding (I’ve felt guilty for not sending messages to you). Second, you can accept that great affection for you remains (it does, just accept it asshole). 

Ah…that feels better. 

One of the big things that has changed, however, is the gross tonnage of things that have happened that I want to talk to you about. Another thing that has changed is that my blog is terrible (or maybe that’s not much of a change). 

You might recall that I started this blog a few years out from college (I guess a decade ago now) when I didn’t have an intellectual outlet at all. I was a nerd adrift, actively studying and thinking about nerd stuff with no one to talk to (except Alicia who I bombarded to no end). So I started this blog and the next day I happened to grab that guy on the subway and the blog thing kinda exploded. It was really life-giving for a time. It became a wonderful motivator to write, think, and keep friends and family around the world updated and engaged in a way I found meaningful. 

But times have changed. Going on more serious intellectual adventures and formally writing them up for academic journals seems to have become my permanent full-time gig since the phd started. That’s now just gotten worse since the phd ended (yes I finished my doctorate…more on that later…I’m not joking when there’s much to talk about…Duckworth called my defense my “Michael Jordan moment” cause I was sick and crushed it…damn I’m ruining my a future post…anyway). I had also posted like five anti-Trump blogs in a row (it was drifting away from intellectual adventures) before posting that you had gone missing (I guess I’m calling that “Brent Letter #1”) and no posts since. I felt this pressing ethical obligation to not say anything publicly that was not a message to you but also to say nothing publicly that was not a message against Trumpism (like I’d be normalizing bullying or something). I also was tired at the same time of alienating my Trump-supporting family members. So I just didn’t post. 

But there are a few things that I miss. I continue to devour history lecture series on audible, but don’t have a good outlet for my thoughts on that. I also miss writing informally. I very very much miss bullshitting—I want to be a careful scientist in some domains (blah blah blah) but refuse to relinquish my inalienable right to bullshit (i.e., speak with unreasonable confidence outside of my area of expertise). I also have a terrible memory and this blog has helped me in the past to capture some of my better ideas that I can refer back to later. Another thing that has changed is that I have options to write for real news outlets now if I feel so led, so the urge takes me to speak something important to the moment, my blog is not the best outlet for that anymore anyway. There’s also no need to post updates about my research on primal world beliefs. We’ve made a website at for that. Lastly, another cool thing, there’s no need to platform build through this blog anymore (I’ll do that elsewhere too). So, if the only readers are you, my mom, Alicia who may occasionally come behind me to correct some spelling mistakes, eric, my brother, and Alex L., that’s a win. Boring is fine.

So the idea that I’ve been toying with for a few months is that I would really like this blog to be an outlet for two life-giving activities. First, less importantly, I want to try to post short (like 3 paragraph) reviews of the history lecture series I finish (I’m thinking a rating, rationale, and 2-3 cool things I learned about the topic would be great). For example, I did a deep dive on the crusades not so long ago, devouring several books too. Fucking fascinating shit. A trully unique military/colonial venture that profoundly shaped the modern world but in not at all the way I thought. I could talk to you, Chris Fiorello, Eric Whitaker, and the like about it for hours. So. Much. Fun. I think reviews on stuff like that would kill like 10 birds with one stone for me. I just need to write them quickly and accept that they will be lower quality minimally edited posts (like this one). Writing somewhat terrible prose is kinda fun when I just craft and re-craft my research articles to no end.

The second thing is that I want to write you letters. This also kills a few birds with one stone. I really want you to feel loved wherever you are. I want to continually let you know that you would be welcome back. I want to keep friends and family reasonably updated about my life if they so chose to follow along, and I want/need to scratch this enormous and increasingly irritating itch that I have which is to talk to you about me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to talk to you about you–really would–but I’ve been told that missing persons make terrible conversation partners–at least while they are missing. So I intend to interpret your going missing as a blanket invitation for me to carry the conversation by talking about myself incessantly. 

I’d also love to talk to you about others, but I’ve found (the hard way) that others often aren’t as comfortable as I am when being publicly vulnerable (and boring) and I’m too lazy to get their permission. So I’m taking the hit and talking about me. Yes. I know. You’re welcome. 

So, to summarize this wordiness, I think I’m going to re-purpose this blog to (a) write you letters about my life and (b) nerdy amateur reviews of history lecture serials. Both sound life-giving. We’ll see if it sticks. It’s hopefully more likely to happen now that I’ve posted this.

In closing, there’s two things you should know.

First, today I was taking a dump when Alicia started screaming upstairs because MSNBC projected Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. I’m certainly nervous about going into the winter of this pandemic, the preservation of important norms that accompany the peaceful transfer of power that Trump isn’t respecting, as well as conflicting feelings regarding potential post-election legal action against him, blah blah blah. But those fears are for tomorrow. Today, I am relieved and celebrating. I hope you are too. Have a scotch on me tonight and bill me when I see you next. I’ve been enjoying Glen Moray lately.

Second, fall colors are here and beautiful. Tilly, Alicia, and I need to soon take another run up-state to get a big jug of maple syrup again. If you’re not busy, we’d love for you to join us. Reach out anytime. You will always be welcome. And maple syrup is delicious.

Your friend,


About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

2 responses to “To My Dear Friend Brent Chamberlain #2: I’m Going to Keep Posting Letters to You

  • Linda Mccormick

    Dearest Jer,

    Thank you for resurrecting your blog in the form of Brent Letter #2. A wonderful read. A wonderful hope of more of such to be forthcoming. I’m glad you see me as one of your greatest fans as that will always be the case. I’m sad that your dear friend Brent who I was also privileged to meet 2 years ago this Christmas remains silent, but no doubt deeply touched, as I am, by your outstretched arms.

    I will respond more personally and as soon as possible. You, Alicia and Tilbug are always missed, loved and a huge part of my joy.

    Much love always, mom/Nanaxoxoxox


  • Lippy

    Hard post to read. Seeing it in my inbox has been making me shudder. I miss you very much as well, Brent. The last time that I saw Jer was a surprise bathroom run in at NYC’s Natural History Museum the weekend that Brent got married in Central Park? Jer’s humour/spelling mistakes made the post much more bearable.

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