One of the best things about publishing your almost-innermost thoughts in a blog is that sometimes you get candid feedback about what you’ve written from people when next they happen to meet you in person. Yesterday was such a day and for the purpose of posterity I will share the highlights, such as they were, here. The main points follow, in no particular order.
It was mentioned that my demeanor in writing is very different from my demeanor in person. Judging by my blog posts, I am a strongly opinionated person with unwavering beliefs that brook absolutely no argument from anyone. I have firmly and completely made up my mind and, seemingly, anyone disagreeing can “taketh themselves unto Hades” as my grandfather used to say, but in slightly different terms. When you sit down to talk to me in person, it was observed, I’m “slippery” and “evasive” and “one never really knows what I think on a particular topic.”
Admittedly, it took me no small time to digest this feedback. I pride myself on honesty and forthrightness if for no other reason that I haven’t the time nor inclination nor memory for subterfuge. I will admit that there is a distinct difference between the outward appearance of these two aspects of my personality. In writing, I do seem more determined and opinionated but this is merely because I know what I’m going to say, I’ve chosen the topic specifically because I feel strongly about it, and there’s nobody else here to contradict me or contribute. If I seem forceful or opinionated it’s not because I am unwilling to hear other voices in the discussion but merely because there ARE no other voices. If I leave room for them in my writing for voices which will not speak then those spaces will appear only as holes. I have not mastered the rhetorical arts necessary to write only half a story.
In conversation, I will of course appear softer because I want to leave as much room as possible for the other side of the discussion. Good conversation is something I treasure above almost everything else. If I presented myself with the abruptness and directness of a blog entry then everyone else would quickly become bored. If the result of the conversation seems oleaginous or evasive, then it is only because real face-to-face interaction is not about a getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Whereas writing is a full-out sprint from starting point to finish, a good conversation is more of a dance between two people who agree on a starting point and work together to come to a conclusion. This isn’t evasiveness but instead partnership. A good conversation has two sides. At best a piece of written work can have but one.
Secondly, I was taken to task on a specific point of fact in a blog entry from 2006. In the post I talked long and vehemently about alcohol and its place in American Society. It was one blog among many but the commentator pointed out, quite correctly, that my current lifestyle was contradictory to that single post. The question was, simply, why hadn’t I corrected the post to indicate my revision of opinion on the topic? My response to that, while a weak one, was that I had no interest in being a revisionist. I cannot be responsible for every bit of fluff that I knock off half a decade ago. Looking back on the post, I still agree with the content in spirit, but don’t adhere to my own previous standards. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’m not sure what else to say except that I have addressed the topics at issue though not with the vehemence of my original proclamation. Perhaps I’m embarrassed at the failure and don’t wish to publicize it? Who can say really.
I think the larger point is that a blog isn’t about the now so much as it is a history. The value isn’t in maintaining a pristine image of where you are so much as figuring out where you’ve been. Perhaps where you’ve been isn’t so great. I’ve written plenty of things that I’ve later realized were complete shit. One need only follow the posts on religion to realize that. I put out an opinion on the topic and the world came together to beat me back and correct me over the subsequent seven years. I consider there to be no better outcome for a writer than to be proven wrong by his readers. When that happens it means not only that you all cared enough to tell me that I was full of shit but also that I was accepting and receptive of it and that YOU, my readers, my friends, my family, changed me for the better. For that, I thank you.
Lastly, one recurring topic that my commentator hit upon frequently is to ask simply, why I would bother to blog at all. Why have I, for seven years, sat down at the computer and typed out what I was thinking about? Why would I bother to invest in this endeavor? What would I possibly have to gain from it? In all honesty, the endeavor was a search for friendship. Through my years on this planet I have sought to connect and to find people with whom I could share my life. For the most part, because of my own attitudes, I’ve been unsuccessful. I’ve come across as demanding and antisocial and generally an ass because I categorically reject, sometimes forcefully and insultingly, many things that people hold most dear. That’s a pretty poor way to make friends and looking back on this blog, it’s only exacerbated the problem. While I pour out my thoughts on things I also doubtless find a way to alienate just about everyone who reads it. This is sad because in some very specific way I value every one I come in contact with in a way that I’m just terribly and ironically bad at communicating. In some ways I feel like I can communicate in a masterful and convincing way and in some ways I feel like a hopeless and wordless child who accomplishes the exact opposite of his intent.