Sometime between Post 32 and 33, my dad told me that he was subscribing to my blog.
I did not know this. This can happen when you don’t have access to your own stats.
As a matter of fact, I did not know that he knew I had a blog. You can be sure that upon hearing this, I mentally ‘re-read’ my posts through my dad’s perspective, or what I think my dad’s perspective would be.
Hmm. It’s an unusual feeling.
Isn’t it odd that there are things that we’ll tell to the complete stranger but that we won’t tell nearly so easily to our own family? I could speculate about why that is, but here’s Chesterton’s take:
Men always talk about the most important things to total strangers. It is because in the total stranger we perceive man himself; the image of God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of the wisdom of a moustache.
– G.K. Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades, Chapter 5
Yet this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself experiencing unusual sensations due to blogging.
For instance, there’s the feeling you get when you run into the same stimulus that provoked you to start a topic in the first place.
Soon after Post 19, I walked into a hospital in which there was a modern art exhibition and sale in a little internal gallery. Displayed prominently was a canvas of black circles on a white background, just like my hypothetical example. I looked at it, and thought to myself, “How uncanny. I wrote about exactly that.” Then I saw a patient whose gown was sliding off his shoulder, and another whose gown gaped open in the back, and I thought to myself, “and I wrote about that” (Post 6) and as I saw the staff wheeling something somewhere, I thought, “and about that too” (Post 9). Tonight as I opened the pizza box, I remembered my hypothetical green peppers (Post 22).
It’s almost as if you think, “Now that really reminds me of something someone said once!” and then you pause. “Ah yes, that someone was me.”
But it doesn’t end there. When I went out with friends, I could barely contain myself as we wandered onto the discussion of feminism right after I had finished a post on it (Post 31). When SpiritedOne said, “I do call myself a feminist – but I explain that I’m a pro-life feminist,” I felt like Arnold Horshack on “Welcome Back Kotter,” (“Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!”) but what are you supposed to say? How about, “Ladies, I really appreciate your attendance here tonight. Please move your cheesecake aside while I set up my laptop; there we go. The first slide you’re going to be seeing here – oh, let me just try to click through to it; there we go – for tonight’s PowerPoint presentation – do you all have a clear view? – is an overview of Blog Post #31, which was posted on July 29, 2015. As you look at these bullets, you’ll notice -is my microphone on? – that this post contains, as usual, several digressions into completely unrelated topics . . .”
Yeah, maybe not.
“Gee, I wonder how come my friends never invite me out anymore.”
So instead I made valuable contributions to the conversation such as this, “I wrote about that!” and then later, I added this gem: “Ooh, yes, exactly! I said that too!”
How can I let myself get started on the topic when I’ve said it all before? How much kimchee is too much? You’ve got easy access to the written version, but now that I’ve got you here in person, I’ll give you the audio version too. As a matter of fact, I have a printed-out version right here; you can read along as I share my thoughts on the topic. And would you be interested in a fridge magnet by any chance?
Yeah, it feels strange.
And then there are the things that I would count on the negative side of the ledger, which I didn’t fully appreciate before.
One minus is that the standard for blogging is so low that you can barely admit to doing it. You feel sheepish. The other day a woman said to me, “I’ve carved out some time to write today.” She said that she’s working on a book and that she hopes to have it published one day. I felt like saying, “I write too! I write all the time! When I’m not writing on the computer, I’m writing in my head! I write when I shouldn’t be writing! I write when I have no time carved out for writing! I can’t stop!”
But I didn’t say anything, because if you tell people that you write, then they’ll ask you what you write, and then it will turn out that it’s only a blog. A blog, where ‘publishing’ is only a mouse click away.
Someone saw me typing once and asked, “Are you a writer?” I said, “Well, not really.” A few minutes later, someone asked the same thing. “Are you a writer?” I said, “Well, kind of. It’s a blog.”
Another thing, which is a mixture of good and bad and strange is the way that I often find, after posting, that the exact same point was made by somebody else. That might not sound so bad, but allow me an analogy. Starting a new topic is like diving into the river. You think it will be a fairly straightforward swim, and the other side of the river doesn’t look too far away; it won’t be like the last time. You happily jump in. Then part way through, as always, you find that it’s fairly tough work; there are obstacles that you didn’t expect, and you can’t swim around them; you must swim through them. So you keep going, and then at last, you arrive on the other side, panting and tired. Nevertheless, you have a sense of accomplishment, because you’ve done your best and you made it after all. As you are toweling off, you look up, and you notice something.
Wait a minute – that’s not – that’s a bridge, isn’t it?
It turns out that someone else, probably Chesterton, was here several decades ago, and he built a bridge, elegant and perfect, that spans that exact same river that you wanted to cross.
So I guess I could have just – I could have just – taken that.
And I tell you, just this morning, after writing my post about dancing, I was resting. I lazily picked up a copy of Gilbert, a magazine which is free to members of the American Chesterton Society, and I read this:
He once contrasted the scientific civilization advocated by Joseph McCabe with the religious commonwealth of the Middle Ages by asserting that the former believes in specialists doing things that the latter believes everyone should do. Chesterton gives a few examples. Once “this habit of dancing was a common habit with everybody, and was not necessarily confined to a professional class. A person could dance without being a dancer; a person could dance without being a specialist; a person could dance without being pink.” He gives another example. “The very fact that Mr. McCabe thinks of dancing as a thing belonging to hired women at the Alhambra [a ballet hall] is an illustration of the same principle by which he is able to think of religion as a thing belonging to some hired men in white neckties.” This is in line with his idea of the democratic faith being that terribly important things must be left to ordinary people.
And then he gives two more examples. “Once men sang together round a table in chorus; now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If scientific civilization goes on (which is most improbable) only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest.”
– David Fagerberg, “Smile, You’re on the Internet,” Gilbert Magazine, Volume 18, No. 6-7, May-June 2015
I read this not more than fifteen minutes after publishing my post about dancing. I could not believe the timing!
I guess the good news is that I went in the same direction as Chesterton, but I have to say, it does feel strange to stand here, dripping wet, looking at that bridge.
So arguably, I should do more reading, in order to find more of these bridges before I start any given topic. But I confess that I’ve noticed another unintended consequence of blogging, and that is that I approach books with some trepidation now: “Oh dear, the next few pages of this book will probably have a whole bunch of great quotations, and will fill my head with new ideas, and then I’ll have even more blog topics than I already have and then I won’t be able to remember all these new ideas and plus I’ll have even more places to look whenever I want to retrieve a quotation because I’ll have even more source material than I already have now.”
Okay, no more thinking for today. Maybe I’ll just go read the instruction manual for the alarm clock.
Instruction manuals. Language. Precision in language. Truth. Beauty. Goodness. Aagh!
Happy Birthday Dad. Welcome to my blog. Can I interest you in a fridge magnet?