As I prepare to take a holiday from blogging for a month, I have been wondering about the purpose and value of keeping up a personal blog. There are so many ways to spend one’s time, so many demands upon the available hours of each day.
Is sitting in front of a computer tapping away on the keyboard attempting to capture the random firing of the neurons of my brain really a worthwhile expenditure of my time?
The first blog post I ever posted was on July 6, 2008. It appeared at http://www.inaspaciousplace.blogspot.com. I posted seventy-four times at Blogspot until April 2010 with a ten month break from June 5, 2009 to May 3, 2010.
On April 2, 2010 I moved to WordPress where I have posted one hundred and three posts in three months. One of the appeals of WordPress as a host is that it provides ongoing statistics for each blog.
I do not understand statistics and am not sure exactly what the numbers on my blog really mean. But the monthly graph shows that http://www.inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com was viewed 1, 659 times in April, 2,350 in May; June recorded 3,239 views. I know some of those numbers count people who return more than once to the site. But, even taking these repeat views into consideration and eliminating my loyal family, I cannot think of anything else I do that is accessed even close to three thousand times in a month.
When I started blogging two years ago I tried to explain for myself why I might enter such a public form of self-expression. I wrote that my blog
is an instrument that is intended to encourage discipline. It is an attempt cause myself to stop and notice, to notice what is going on in my inner life, in my relationship to the world around me and to God. It may seem self-indulgent to post such reflections on the internet in the form of a blog. But, I know myself well enough to know that, without the external motivation of the possibility these reflections might benefit someone other than just myself, I will write much less often and probably less carefully. So this blog exists to help me open to God and to life.
This personal spiritual discipline aspect of blogging remains profoundly true and richly rewarding. Different people learn in different ways; I learn best by trying to clarify my thoughts through expressing them in writing. Every blog post is a little journey I take within myself. I seldom start out knowing where I am going. There is a sense of adventure each time I sit down at the keyboard to discover what my fingers are thinking today. I write in order to find out what is going on inside my head. I write to grow, to challenge myself to think more deeply and ponder more carefully the world I experience.
But, recently I have come to appreciate another value in the blog world. I have come to believe that blogging has the potential to create connections. One of the most gratifying aspects of blogging in the past few weeks has been to find people beginning to speak to one another in the “Comment” section of my blog. The exchange began as a response to something I said, but soon took on a life of its own as people started to connect around their own ideas, insights and stories. I have seen wisdom and light in many of the comments I have read that extends far beyond anything in the original post.
In one of the series of interviews transcribed in the book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, Wallace attempts to describe why he believes books still have an important role to play in our culture in spite of the dominance of technological alternatives. Wallace states,
my personal belief is a lot of it has to do with voice, and a feeling of intimacy between the writer and the reader. That sorta, given the atomization and loneliness of contemporary life – that’s our opening, and that’s our gift.
Connection is difficult in our society. Technology has raised “atomization and loneliness” to epidemic proportions. The Internet, downloadable movies, electronic social networking tools, have all made it possible to be thoroughly distracted and endlessly entertained without ever venturing outside the privacy of your own home. No one needs personal connection any longer simply to avoid being bored. But perhaps those technologies that have a tendency to foster isolation can also be used to reverse the fragmentation they seem to encourage.
Is it possible that the very technologies that undermine human community might become new tools of real social connection?
Most of the people who have entered into conversation on my blog are people who I know at some time will meet in a context other than cyberspace. They will see each other’s faces. When they do encounter one another in person, they may find a deeper sense of connection because of the interaction they have shared in the comments section of this blog.
As I take a break from all these words, I hope the fledgling community that has formed around some of my posts will not entirely disappear. I hope when I return to my keyboard in August that my early morning ruminations in this spacious place may continue to fan the flames of connection between the fragmented solitudes of our community.
Thank you to all those who have read some or all of the 60,000 words I have written here over the last three months. Thank you for the encouragement of your responses. May we continue to be a spacious place in which to grow in our journey and deepen our awareness of God’s presence and action in our lives.