17 January 2011

It Is Not About Me: Part II

This is more formal than my usual style, but as I was writing, I started to see that I might be working on something that I would in the future regard as an historical document, so I shifted mode. We writers all have a variety of styles. This is one of mine. Please do not be put off. I believe it is appropriate for the occasion. It is not meant to entertain; it is meant to inform. There is not even a single image. This is a stark post in a starkly barren page design.

Sometimes, it is better to be useful than it is to be cool.


When I first started blogging, and that was hardly more than a week ago, I started out writing about one thing, and then, as I discovered all the work out there, I became more interested in what other people were doing than I was in my own writing. It just happened.

Honestly, I felt inspired. I began to feel the keenest yearning to talk about that journey of discovery. You who are a writer know what I mean. When you feel something like that, you go for it. The muse has spoken.

Rapidly, I engaged myself with some dozen or so blogs. I became a follower, not a leader, and I did so happily. In the Chinese philosophy of the I Ching, one of the sixty-four "hexagrams," as they call them, is something called "The Well." It symbolizes the center of the village and the source of life. For an artist, it symbolizes inspiration and his or her connection with the community. This is one of my favorite hexagrams.

I say all this because I want you to understand what I mean when I say, "The Well."

It is a trope of mine. I tend to return to it. For this evolution of my understanding, I have found a new Well, and it is not, simply, "blogging." That is an undefined term. For blogging is a whole, complex interaction with other bloggers. It is both reading and writing. It is not simply one person broadcasting to a passive audience. It is a new art form. It is interactive writing.

Blogging has its stars. There are some who master the form better or sooner than others. There is competition for readers and commenters. Success, if not measured in money is often measured by the number of pageviews, followers, commenters, or awards.

The historian, Edward Gibbon, author of the great Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was a keen observer of human nature. He notes that it is human nature to try to rise up above others, and as a stunning example, Gibbon observed that the early Christian Church fathers (total patriarchy, sorry) were not motivated by money, but they were motivated by influence, and influence was measured by the size of their congregations and the spread of their preaching.

There is a parallel here.

At the same time, bloggers are writers, and writers, like any artists, are very much concerned with the quality of their own work. They constantly strive to improve their writing without any other thought than their own, uniquely personal desires, just as deeply religious people seek to improve their own souls without any thought of external influence.

But enough of such musings. I did not mean to tip my hand, for though I am, as I say, "a working class guy," I am a student of history and always have been. This gives me a certain perspective. Whether it is useful remains to be seen.

When I first set myself the task of reviewing blogs, my very first impulse was to do a post which touched on some dozen blogs. I wanted to capture my excitement and the suddenness of it all. I still want to capture the excitement and the suddenness of it all, but as I got into the actual work, I soon discovered that trying to talk about many blogs all at once would not work for me.

We each have our personal styles. Mine is to focus on one thing at a time. I would rather strike deep than broad.

So rather than talk about a bunch of blogs in one post, I will be talking about one, just one, each in a series of posts. This way I can, hopefully, do each one justice.

Once I decided that, my route became clear, but my task became much more difficult, for it required a deeper reading of each blog. I needed to go back into each person's archives and follow their evolution. That's a lot of reading. This is serious research, but then, as I indicated, I have an historian's perspective. I don't mind. I like it. It is how I work.

My Purpose

All these writers have had the courage to expose their souls in public. Far be it for me to ridicule. These are human beings, and life is sacred. Somehow, each of these people have touched my life. They have earned a certain privilege as... friends.

I say this even though the writers represented here are still, most of them, strangers.

So when I say "friends," let us say I am simply "Telling the truth in advance," but for me these people have already acquired a certain status.

I don't say mean things about my friends, and I don't tolerate nasty comments about my friends. Anyone is, of course, absolutely free to say anything they want. But my own rule about this is to hold myself to the same accountability I have with people I have met face to face. I have an address and a phone number, and so do they. I have reputation to maintain, and so do they. It makes it all very simple.

But a fanboy is not a friend. A friend, as the old Italian saying goes, will tell you when your face is dirty.

At the same time, some people will engage in a critique, "as a friend," when they really mean to put one down, establish some sort of altitude, or ameliorate the fact that you intimidate the hell out of them. Artists of all kinds get that a lot. It is one of the more depraved aspects of human communication, and it so often passes as witty conversation.

I despise it, don't you?

My purpose is simple. to introduce others to what I have discovered in a way that will help them discover it too.

My Qualifications

I don't have a Ph.D. I don't have an M.A. I'm still working on my B.A. But I am an actual bona fide student of history at Fresno State, California. It does not take too many semesters before one catches on to what being an historian is all about.

Historians, like lawyers, make much ado about the credibility of witnesses. So let us look at that. Rather than a second or third person account, mine is the best kind of source: the first-person witness. But in this case, I am not merely a witness, I am active participant in the events I describe.

Historians make much ado about bias. So let me make my bias clear. I favor artists. I love them, and I want to help them. I am very touchy about what others may say about my friends. This is just the way it is. If I could change that, I would become even more loving of artists, more biased, and much touchier.

I am not interested in that journalistic school which constantly laughs at "all that crazy stuff over there." I am not interested in the instant assumption of superior knowledge practiced by some professors. I am much amused by professors who talk about, say, hoplite warfare who have never hefted a shield or spear in their overfed and comfy life. Smug and cynical I am not, and so, I do not find credible witnesses to blogging who have not tried it. It is not an easy form!

To persuade you, to interest you, to inform you, to entertain you, I have simply and only my own ability to study and communicate. I have, at this date, never been paid for my writing. I have never published a scholarly article. I expect that will change, and soon, but right now, I'm just "some guy."

You will have to be persuaded or not strictly on the basis of what I say, not who I am.

It is better that way.


So then, that is the introduction. It has my purpose, my method, my qualifications, and my bias. That's enough for the moment.

The next step is to simply get started, but I am not reviewing any blogs on this post. This is the introductory post to a new phase. I will however tell you whose blog I will do first, and I do not mean to pick on you Yandie, but it is Inspiration strikes. In the Kneecaps.

The reason you get to go first is because you were the first person to follow me—which I find...<Rick shifts back to his normal voice> just awesome.


Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

I'm flattered and awed, and a little nervous, since I know my rantings and whatnot tend to be a little 'all over the map'. I'm rather excited to see what you have to say.

Richard G. Crockett said...

I think you needn't fret. I'm actually going by the things you yourself point up, like "Schrodinger's Rapist," and things you yourself link to.

Vintage Witch & Little Scotia said...

I'm looking forward to it too! :)

Richard G. Crockett said...

Oh, I just totally love it when I get a comment out of the blue from someone of whom I had no prior knowledge. How to address? VW? Er... No. Wrong image. VW&LS? Better. You tell me.

Had a quick glance at your blog. Loved this bit:

"The real secret of success ... is that there are no secrets. There are only universal principles and timeless truths that have been discovered and rediscovered throughout the ages."

Sorry for the ellipsis, but to make up for that, the full post can be read here.

Cheers, and now back to study...

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