Thursday, July 31, 2003

Samuel Johnson, I Ain't

I got a curious e-mail from Mom a couple of days ago. We had just engaged in an e-mail correspondence in which she had tried to cheer me up, and she finally explained that the source of her concern was my blog. But she quickly added that she hoped she hadn't acted inappropriately by referencing my blog, because one should never read another person's diary and then comment on it.

It was a curious comment on the nature of blogging, and it reminded me of the thoughts that went through my own head when I decided to start writing this blog. I decided that it would be a good lesson for me to (a) keep a diary, and (b) make it public, because one of the great recurring problems of my life is my unwillingness to be open about my thoughts and emotions. God only knows how many things I have screwed up by being unwilling to admit what I was feeling or thinking. In a lot of ways, blogging is against everything in my nature, which is precisely why I should do it. Thus the subtitle of the blog, about private words being spoken in public. That was the final line of a love poem written by T.S. Eliot to his wife, which took the form of the introduction to a book.

I also enjoy thinking that I am writing so that Jonah will someday be able to meet me; that is, he will be able to glean a little insight into a 31 year old lawyer with a fledgling career and an even more fledgling baby. To that end, I can offer insights like this:

- Yes, your mother and I were always this weird. In fact, we have in-jokes so "in" that the rest of the world would scratch its collective head. We sing to you, but we sing to each other, too -- often using commercial jingles as the tune.
- Yes, I used to be young. I don't feel young, but by the time you read this, I will have realized how young I am right now.
- Yes, you scared the ever-lovin' sh-t out of me. But I also loved the ever-lovin sh-t out of you, and it worked out.

But at the same time, I have to recognize this: though it may help me to think of Jonah reading this someday, I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking that I am doing it for Jonah. He's free to read it or not; there will certainly be a time when he doesn't want anything to do with it, and probably another time when he will be curious to read it. And if he never reads a word, it will have nevertheless served its purpose. Thus, I'm not necessarily writing so that Jonah can meet me, as I am today. I am writing so that I can meet myself, as I am today.

Which is why I am often disappointed with my own blog. I personally don't much care for blogging that is nothing more than "me too" essays, spouting pre-formed opinions about politics, and so on. Yet I report each new irritation with the Bush Administration as if it were worth reading. They're not, particularly. My links to weird news are better than my political opinions, because weird news links are at least entertaining. But, to the extent that I am a person that dwells on my irritation with the current regime, I suppose it makes sense to include that in the blog. "Hi. I'm a guy who lets politics get the better of him."

It's just a shame that I tend to fall back on political griping when I don't have anything more interesting to say. It's the precise situation that developed between me and my father during adolescence. Looking back, I think that the reason we argued politics as much as we did was so that I could really feel like I was talking to him. He got agitated, I got agitated, and we talked. It was better than the complacent silence that often happened otherwise. But it was hollow. Arguing about politics is probably better than not talking at all, but not by much.

The better stuff -- the stuff that I think is at all worthwhile on my own blog -- is the stuff that follows in the steps of Pepys or Samuel Johnson, however poorly. That is, it is the sort of "this is what it was like to be here" narrative that the protagonist of "84 Charing Cross Road" so adores. I think that's the only thing that actually adds "content" to the Net; that is, makes a blog worth more than merely a series of links to other content. It also is the only really worthwhile material that makes something worth reading day after day, the only way to communicate with friends and strangers, and the only way to keep a "diary" worthy of the name.

So I aspire to write truly worthwhile material, when I can force myself to be honest enough to do it. And the rest of the time, I'll just simmer about politics, weird news, and movies.

 5:57 PM

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