reasons why :: meta-blog reflection

Before I immerse myself too deeply in this endeavor, I wanted to set some thinking into words – a purpose statement for the whole affair. These are the reasons that I became convinced that spending some increased portion of my time staring into the computer screen would actually be a good thing.

The advice you get over and over and over as an aspiring writer from “people who know” is that you have to write a little bit everyday. Consistency is the best way to improve. I’m planning on writing for the rest of my life, and I’ve been encouraged in that direction often enough to begin to believe that I might be capable of rearranging the words in our mother tongue in a few interesting, provocative, and compelling new ways. So, the blog is an arena where I can write consistently, and practice putting ideas into the form in which they speak well to others. This is a semi-public space that will allow me to get better at writing.

Second, both at Westmont and at Regent I’ve been indoctrinated with the mantra, “Theology happens in community.” This is more than a fancy way of saying that I get my best ideas from other people (though there’s something to that as well). But “doing theology” often consists of reading in a coffee shop where no one is studying the same thing, or thinking about life as I wander down a path through the woods. There are a lot of times when I’m blessed with a community to do theology with (at home, at church, at school), but there are also times when being a theologian seems a bit like being an appendix – no one is sure what you’re good for or just where you belong. So, the blog is an arena where I can broaden the community in which theology happens. This is where you come in; all your questions, disagreements, excitements, etc. are eagerly anticipated. As Casey is known to have said, “Comment in fecundus.”

Third, the world is a really busy place, and most of us (myself included) find ourselves trying to survive one day after another, schedules crammed to the gills. The opportunity to reflect about the meaning of the whole rat-race is rare, and it’s not in the rat race’s best interest to encourage such thinking. I hope that this blog provides a space to encourage some of that “meta” level reflection – both for myself and folks who happen to stop by.

Finally, and not least in importance – this blog is a way that I can give others a window into my head. I’m hoping to put my mental furniture on display from time to time so that my friends and family can see the sorts of things that I spend most of my time occupied with. The value of that communication is fairly high in my mind.

THE DANGERS OF A BLOG.

The internet can be a very scary “place” to exist. The “person” that I am on the internet, is… well… whatever I put forth in my words, images, and blog-shrubbery (do you like the flowers?). Of course, in its grossest form this is how sixty year-old pedophiles pick up on teenage girls – by pretending to be someone other than who they are. We control the things that others learn about us, and if we want to be a little smarter, a little more focused, a little more driven, a little more faithful, a little more convinced, it’s not hard to put that out there.

I suppose that another danger would be that we waste hours on end in cyber-reality while the world that God loves spins on outside one’s scope of vision. There are physical people outside my door and just down the street that I might never meet because I spend evenings (just like they do) connected to my computer. Not to say that you aren’t a physical person as well, it’s just that there is a significant chasm between your physicality and mine. Maybe this is just one more way that I avoid getting outside and loving my neighbor.

In addition, “interaction” on the internet is necessarily somewhat impersonal. As you read this, I’m reduced to a string of words I typed at my desk twelve hours… two days… a month ago… but you have no way of knowing that the tablecloth here is blue, that I have a slight frown while I type, that there is incense burning in the background, that Carolyn still disapproves of the whole “blog” thing. That stuff doesn’t exactly change the shape of our dialogue, but the lack of body language and facial expression, lack of ability to communicate the nuances of emotion, and lack of personal contact certainly does. Being connected only by keyboards and screens can allow us to interact with sharper tones or disingenuous affection that we couldn’t get away with “in person.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for any opportunity to interact, and this format does streamline a lot of things, but I’m still a bit suspicious. Mostly this means that I need to keep an eye on myself – the examples are mine. Consider this a brief lament for the seemingly inevitable distance between the members of our “community,” and the strain that distance puts on our ability to meaningfully relate.

HERE’S MY PLAN TO MITIGATE THE DANGERS I SEE:

I’ve got a few ideas for counter-acting the dangers and pitfalls that seem to be inherent in this project. The first is just to keep the blog open to all my friends and to encourage them to read it and comment upon it. I trust you all to keep me honest, subvert my pretensions, and remind me where I’m coming from if I start to let myself forget.

In the same vein, I plan to put up posts of a more personal nature from time to time. While I don’t intend this primarily to be a space for life-updates, I do think that it is good to bring in pictures and stories every so often. Once in a while you can expect a slight lapse in the onslaught of theoretical verbiage for a few pictures or some news.

In addition, I do not envision the blog taking over the time that I otherwise spend on personal correspondence in other forms (some of you are saying, “What personal correspondence?”). I intend to continue maintaining friendships on a personal level through email, phone calls, letters, and visits whenever possible.

3 Replies to “reasons why :: meta-blog reflection”

  1. Another Danger came to mind yesterday:

    I must admit, that being fairly new to the blog scene, I’ve found the whole thing fascinating. I’ll confess to wasting more hours than I care to admit in the last few weeks poking around other pages. Some of it has been really enlightening. Some of it has been trash. I’ve already pointed out the “time” danger, but another “interaction” danger leapt to mind.

    Looking around the internet is a form of entertainment a few steps more active than watching television. On the TV, other people choose what you are going to see, you merely choose whether or not you are going to subject yourself to their will. Meanwhile, on the internet you choose what you are going to see and how long you are going to look, but you don’t control what is there. “Out there” is a lot of stuff for you to look at, and the real kicker is this – no one knows you are looking. No one knows what you see, when you see it. There is no way for me to tell when you are looking at this site, you don’t have to leave a trace. You are invisible.

    If you are reading these words, you are in touch with my mind on a Sunday morning, as I sit in a sunny window in Vancouver, looking at blue skies and enjoying an hour or so of email and blogging. But I don’t know you are here, and unless you comment or otherwise leave a footprint, I never will.

    The internet humors the voyeur in all of us. It allows us to indulge that part of us that wishes we had a ring like Frodo’s (without all the faceless screaching fellows) so that we could be invisible and walk around other folk’s worlds without leaving a trace. Here you are without a trace.

    A picture comes to mind: imagine a building, a huge building sixty stories tall (at least). The building is full of intriguing rooms connected by doors and winding hallways, ladders and fireman’s poles. Some rooms hold all kinds of old books, some have raucous music, some have Victorian furniture, some seem to be rooms for selling car insurance, some for promoting the legalization of marijuana. It’s all open for exploration. The creepy thing about this building is that you don’t see anyone there. You walk around for hours on end looking at all that is there, but never meet a soul, never speak a word. You get the feeling that there are other people close to you, but you are never sure how close, nor where they are.

    On this count, I think that one of my disciplines on the internet is going to be a commitment to leaving a trace more often. Perhaps this is a foolish intuition, but I have a feeling that the more that this stuff approximates healthy “normal” human interaction, the better it will be for all of us.

    Believe it or not, this isn’t a ploy to guilt-trip you into leaving more comments (but feel free if commenting will get a load off your chest…)

    Peace,
    Eric

  2. I just put my foot on the actual screen of my computer – does that count?…and I strew a bunch of trace leaving trash around our living room – the humans that i’m interacting with I’m not sure agree with my response to your blog…

  3. Eric, I appreciate your ability to share your concerns so poignantly. I share them with you. I am vehemently opposed to the MySpace epidemic … but I blush with embarassment and confusion when I try to explain why a blog is so very different.

    My primary concern with the whole fad is that it further eliminates interaction with the elderly from our society — something that is already sparce in our society. Computers are for people with quick motor skills, good eyes, and good backs who have kept up with the many technological revolutions of the last decade. The large majority of senior citizens have been left out of this. I do not think this will change. If anyone appreciates the value of face-to-face interaction and quality time with another, it is an elderly person who can see the end of their tunnel. I do not imagine that someone in this position will ever delight in blogging.

    Another primary concern is the deceptive timelessness of blogging. Blogs do not age, fade or rust with time. The people in the pictures will continue to smile brightly until the CEO of Google tells them not to. Blogs grow and grow like the tower of Babel. They seem immune to even human failure because errors can be so quickly altered. Where are our memento moris? Where are the zits, tears, farts, bruises and coughs that remind us of our frailty?

    I think our best defense is a constant reminder — to ourselves and others — about our purposes in blogging. If we intend to simply market ourselves, we should say so. If we mean to grow in wisdom and grace, we should be held accountable.

    Thanks for sharing your blogging goals, Eric. As your friend, I will do my best to hold you to them.

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