Sunday, March 18, 2012

To Blog, Or Not To Blog

Why Oh Why ...

As I rededicate myself to these posts in the new year I've been thinking about why any of us do this. Why engage in this new form of self publication? What's it all about, anyway?

For one thing, it fills a need for something otherwise missing in our society: the need to express fully formed thoughts, and to have them fully heard.  Everywhere else in our lives there is no time or place for such things. We communicate in single words and short bursts of them, constantsly under pressure from our pace of life to do more in less time. A sentence or two is about the upper limit before someone will interrupt us to reply, or to say something about their own experience, or to change the subject.

"I saw this thing on the news yesteday ..."

"I never watch the news myself."

"So, it was about this guy who was like a member of parliament or something, and --"

"So this was in England?"

"Yeah, and anyway he died in a car crash, and no one recognized him at the scene of the accident."

"Wait'll you hear what happened to me. I was driving to --"

"I was thinking it reminded me of some old song ..."

So in place of wonderfully thick books we gravitate toward magazine articles, the more concise the better. We don't write letters, we email or chat -- more brief because the immediacy of reply makes it like a conversation rather than the outpourings of soul that used to go into letters. Many of us don't even email to a friend; instead we tweet, pouring out fewer and fewer words to a larger and larger multitude. And don't dare to dream of posting more than a couple of sentences in your Facebook update, because they will be lost in the stream like one more leaf floating down the river.

Or try to give a "customer service representative" the complete history of your technical problem, and see how long it takes before your monolog is replaced by a question and answer session in which your replies will be given in as few words as possible, mostly yes and no.

How hard it is even for the famous among us, people like artists, singers, or politicians, to find time in which to fully elicidate their ideas. The event is so rare it serves as entertainment -- a Charlie Rose interview for example -- and even then relatively few of us pay attention.

Yet the need to be heard is a universal one. We all want to believe that someone, somewhere, and as many as possible of them, really knows us. And it is through conveying this impression of ourselves that we learn to know ourselves more fully.

Few of us may find an audience for our novels or songs or essays, and very few indeed will be able to command hundreds of people to make a movie and millions of others to pay to watch it. But millions of us can express our thoughts to the full, just by putting the words together, and can cast them into the great sea of the Internet to wash up where they will, like so many messages in bottles.

Unlike email or tweets, and rather more like books on a library shelf, each encapsulated blog entry hangs suspended, waiting however long it might take for someone to discover it, or for its contents to come up in a Google search result. One of the most-read things I've ever written, an In Memoriam piece about local musician Arnold Grayson, has lived on my blog for many years. It still gets hits each month, and occasionally someone posts a comment from their own remembrance of Arnold. It has become a long conversation, a grave visited at long intervals by mourners who have never met one another.

So I like to think I'm doing my part. And if you read this you will be doing yours, though your only reward will be to learn more of another human being. You will actually come to know me more fully than many people I have only lived and worked with, though we may never meet. You might even start a blog of your own. Hey, let me know. I'll look at it.

Coming Soon: 

  • A Belated Report on the Miami Book Fair 2011
  • Why we need Max Headroom now more than ever
  • more!