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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Apologia!

I’ve considered doing this for a long time now, but have always rejected the idea. Does the world really need another blog? Definitely not. After all, there are billions of bytes of blather being produced every day and disseminated on the web; if there’s one thing the world can get on quite well without, it’s more of the same.

There’s part of the whole phenomenon that strikes me as pathetically, self-diminishingly egoistic. A cry for attention in a frenetic virtual marketplace of vanities, where everything is only a mouse-click away and you have to grab the passer-by in the first ten seconds before the sound, or smell, or promise of something sweetly illicit (almost certainly fraudulent) from another stall has already taken their attention away from you. Millions of voices shouting, talking, whispering into the ether; how many of them practically unheard? Are my musings, my attempts to put something of myself into a form which I regard as communicable, clear and creative really worth the effort? Do I want them to repose on a server somewhere in the practical eternity of digital storage, to be retrieved ten years hence by someone unknown to me, idly typing something into a search-engine out of insomniac boredom? [And, if this is you, dear reader, read on or not, as you will – the likelihood that we will ever communicate with each other seems to me, from this vantage point, vanishingly small.]

And then, of course, there’s the issue of commitment to the thing. How many thousands of people bravely start blogs, promising themselves (and others) all sorts of things, only to see them peter out in the daily round of all the other things to be done, joining the heaps of abandoned ideas and projects which litter our way through life, left to wither through lack of attention, boredom, laziness, or just the universality of the second law of thermodynamics, which sees entropy as the inevitable end of all processes? But even within models which see everything as clockwork continually running down, there are possibilities of creating temporary bubbles within the probability wave bleakly breaking on the shore, where tendencies are reversed, where we can create islands of meaning, connectedness, beauty within a wider world of chaos and indifference. Enough reason for Sisyphus to start pushing that f***ing rock up the hill one more time; the ineluctable hope that this time it will be different, that basic tenacious hope which is an essential part of what it means to be human. Enough reason for me, at least, to begin this blog project.

So, dear reader, stick with me, if you will. If I have any sort of model for what I hope this may turn out to be, it is the old, honourable, if today somewhat neglected tradition of the classical essay. In contrast to many (most?) secondary school pupils, I remember the collection of essays we had to read as teenagers in English class with great pleasure, from Charles Lamb to G.K. Chesterton and, particularly, the great Robert Louis Stevenson. And there is something in the very idea of an essay as an attempt which allows one at least a fig-leaf of an explanation if it doesn’t work.

I’m not going to make any promises with respect to frequency, form or content. I will try to stick at it, if only because, in my experience, people don’t tend to continue to visit web-sites where nothing happens for weeks on end. Feel free to comment, if you feel so moved, as I will feel free to comment on your comments – or not. And because this is my blog, I will also feel free to remove any comments I don’t like. Should you happen to like what you read here, by all means spread the word. While this is something that I am primarily doing for myself (like taking up painting), I’m not dishonest enough to try to tell myself, or anyone else, that I don’t care at all whether anyone reads this. There is an inevitable element of vanity in blogging, an expression of our need for assurance and praise from others, perhaps (more positively seen) a small feeling of confidence that that which one produces could just conceivably give pleasure or edification to someone else. Maybe even produce new connections and friendships – or deepen old ones.

And, if this should happen, well then the whole thing has been more than worthwhile.

[Für meine deutsche Freunde (wenn ihr euch bis zu diesem Punkt durchgequält habt): ich werde wahrscheinlich meistens auf Englisch schreiben; es läuft bei mir eben leichter und flüssiger so. Aber ab und zu wird hoffentlich auch etwas auf Deutsch hier stehen. Warten wir es eben mal ab!]

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