Sunday, April 27, 2003


To Blog or Not to Blog

I have to admit that for some time I have been at a loss for blog topics. I have been working on an idea for a couple of magazine articles but I am told by those who know that I should not post them here -- magazines apparently like to print things that have not been previously published, even if they have only been published on the Internet. So something that is of real interest to me is, for the time being anyway, off limits.

To help with this difficulty, I have been looking over a few volumes of anthologies of essays, "the greatest essays in the history of the world" type of thing. This effort has been undertaken in the hope of mining a few topics that might be considered timeless treasures for use by a somewhat desperate blogger. In looking over these volumes a number of interesting observations came to mind.

I noticed that essays used to be a very common form of written communication and reflect the social, intellectual, and spiritual concerns of their writers and that from the 16th to the early 20th centuries these concerns did not greatly change. Essays written since the 1500s, and there are a great many of them, are generally well written, entertaining, and informative. Most of them are mini works of art and cause the reader to look at life in a new way, and with a greater appreciation for beauty and truth. These essays are universally well written and often entertaining explorations of human life. For example, in the 16th century, Sir Francis Bacon wrote an essay On Truth, in the 18th century Lord Chesterfield wrote an essay On Affectation, both topics men of every age can benefit from. In the 20th century Hillare Belloc wrote an essay On the Departure of Guests and E. B. White wrote a hilarious essay on The Death of a Pig, helping us all to share in the joys and trials experienced by a writer who wanted to try his hand at working a farm in Maine.

However, beginning in the 1940's a sea change started taking place. About this time skepticism sets in and the beauty of our existence and the possibility of good become subjects for doubt, if not rejection. Our human existence becomes something that causes despair rather than joy. Joan Didion wrote a piece, At The Dam, about the Hoover Dam, that makes one wonder why men would dream dreams and bother to make the effort to have them come true. Norman Mailer wrote a piece on Miami that is positively depressing.

It is as if these modern writers think that truth is a function of time and that we, having lived after all other people in history and having learned everything there is to learn from them, feel qualified to discard as false and mean spirited everything the ancients took to be true. This is the peculiar arrogance of the modern university dwelling intellectual.

The final thing that struck me is that after the early 1950's the number of essays deemed worthy of publication in these anthologies is greatly diminished, virtually disappearing by the 1970's. I began to wonder if, now that we have reached the 21st century, the blog has not taken the place of the essay. If this is true and we bloggers are taking the place of such writers as Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Chesterfield, Hillare Belloc, or E.B. White (might as well dream lofty dreams) then perhaps a certain obligation is imposed on us as writers. At least I feel a certain obligation to try to write only that which is informative, uplifting, or at least entertaining. This is what I will try to do in the future with this blog, whether I have anything to write about or not.

A postscript:

For what seems the longest time there has been only one comment posted to The 7 Habitus, that was Carl Olson’s taking me to task for my comments on dispensationalism and I thank him for it. However, I am becoming increasingly curious as to the possible reasons for this paucity of reader feedback. I know a few people read this every week, but I am not after numbers, the main purpose of this exercise is, after all, to gain experience as a writer worthy of being read. I am not there yet. However, I think, that most bloggers look forward to some interaction with their readers.

It has occurred to me that there are several possible reasons why no one makes a comment to what they read here. One is that, recognizing the obvious brilliance and sweeping perspective of the writer there is simply nothing left to say. I comfort myself with this idea from time to time but then reality sinks in. It could be because what I am writing is of no interest to anyone. If this is true I would appreciate hearing it, it would help both the reader and the writer for this truth to come out. It could be that the readers keep checking back to see if I have finally given up on this thing. At times I imagine some great Internet pool predicting how long I will last, with great sums, perhaps lives, at stake. Well, maybe not.

I guess there are many other reasons why no one has any comments, but I would really like to hear your reason.

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