A woman where I live runs a Facebook group that coordinates care for stray cats. A couple weeks ago, a skittish shorthair that roams our neighborhood got a nasty lesion on his face; my girlfriend and I notified the woman, who promptly showed up with a humane trap rigged with sardines. The cat took the bait, and she whisked him off to the vet, paying the bill with funds she had raised. It probably wasn’t her only stop that day.
I have a feeling that Pete Davis would like this woman. Davis, the author of the new book Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing, would probably admire her contributions to the community, even if she isn’t regarded as a local hero in the way that a star athlete or prominent businessperson might be. His book is an attempt to illuminate the uncelebrated dividends—both individual and communal—of pouring yourself into a cause, place, craft, or group, whether that means looking out for local cats, or something else.
Dedicated emerged from a commencement speech Davis gave a few years ago, in which he articulated the perils of what he calls “infinite browsing mode,” the state of hopping from job to job or relationship to relationship in the same indecisive way that one peruses Netflix. This is not a bad problem to have—compared with a century ago, people today have far more agency over what they do, what they learn, where they live, and whom they marry—but when weighing all the options, holding out for some better imagined alternative can deny people the pleasures of long-term, committed immersion.