Frank Capra’s epic World War II documentary, Why We Fight (1943), is a stirring rendition of the reasons why the American people went to war with the Nazis and Japanese. It is a brilliant piece of propagandistic art. Similarly, I thought a strong rationale for blogging (at least for why I blog) is due in these days when blogging is in its ascendancy, yet still poorly understood by the rest of the world.
My wife and I have been conducting a “dialogue” (or maybe I should call it a reasoned argument) about blogging. While she understands the importance of projects that allow me to express myself creatively and intellectually–she also feels that blogging can easily become obssessive, all-consuming and anti- or asocial. She beleives that I spend too much time at my blog and the concomitant matters that attend it (like posting to the User Group). She doesn’t understand why I would reveal myself personally in my blog to perfect strangers. And she feels that blogging can be an isolating experience which separates one from friends and family. In fact, she wishes I spent more time with her and my son than I did with perfect strangers. I find her critique to be just and reasonable (though more will be said shortly to explain a blogger’s perspective on this). In my defense, I try as best I can to balance my need for creativity with my responsibilities to friends and family. I may not fully succeed in her eyes, but I try.
Janis works at a Seattle law firm, where one of her colleagues came into her office to tell her that she had been searching the web for the menu of a Seattle Caribbean restaurant called Casuelita’s. It just so happens that I wrote of blog review of the restaurant and her search turned up my link. After reading it, she told Janis that she found my blog “weird.” She just couldn’t understand why someone would be so personal or confessional in such an impersonal (her view) medium. This is a cutting comment to someone like me for whom blogging has become an extremely important form of self-expression. It makes me feel the need to explain and defend blogging and my blog in particular.
Blogging from its inception up to now has been a slightly cultish phenomenon. Those who blog have often labored in obscurity. Those who don’t blog (the vast majority) have been shut off from blogging. They know little about it. They don’t understand the impulses that make someone blog. There is a wide gap between blogger and non-blogger.
I believe that this is changing. I believe that blogging eventually will become as popular as journal writing or fiction writing. Blogs will seem less and less obscure and iconoclatic and more an everyday activity engaged in by large numbers of people. But until then, it is important that we bloggers educate the uninitiated and explain what we do and why we do it.
Janis is certainly right that someone like me–who has a slightly obssessive personality and tries to master many different skills like photography, blogging, gardening can easily be sucked into a project like this blog. I find it easy to lose track of time and to forget other tasks and responsibilities while I’m blogging. I don’t defend this vice. But I do think a defense of blogging is called for…
Throughout human history, people have engaged in personal, creative expression. Some of our greatest artists have labored long and hard in relative or absolute obscurity, walled off partially or completely from human contact and totally immersed in the creative enterprise. Think of the Neanderthal cave painters drawing sacred animals on the wall in darkness relieved by the light of a few candles. Think of a deathly ill Proust slaving over the manuscript of Remembrance of Things Past in his hermetically sealed bedroom. Think of the Irish monks sealed away in impassable towers on the barren Atlantic coast, who copied manuscripts in order to save ancient knowledge and pass it on to future generations. Don’t you think that most who knew these individuals viewed their undertaking as absurd and certainly “weird.” Make no mistake, I don’t make a claim that mine or any other blog reaches such a level of greatness. But human creativity and ingenuity advances in small incremental steps. What we do now may have some small impact on the next generation of bloggers and perhaps one of them out there will be recognized some day on the same level as a Proust or Joyce.
I don’t think my blog is going to change the world. But I think it will and has made some small difference for some of those who’ve read it. I think that’s all we can ask of the medium. And by the way, I’m not making a claim that blogs are works of art or even that they should be. There are as many types of blogs out there as there are bloggers who create them. Many blogs make no pretence to greatness or profundity. They’re created by people who need to express themselves in some way that is personal to them. And, as the haggadah says: “That will suffice.” But I do believe that a few blogs will stand out as gems of personal expression. Somewhere out there in blogland, Samuel Pepys (the 16th century diarist who is viewed as the foremost diarist in the past four centuries) labors in obscurity and his or her achievements will be recognized some day.
I hope we can begin a TP community dialogue on this subject. Why do you blog? What do you see as blogging’s benefit to you and what, if any price do you pay for it? Please, if you do blog about this include me in a trackback.