Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Spring Debut

Though I’ve resisted the temptation for quite some time to launch a blog, here I am on Day One, in Year Zero, announcing, nay, performing the birth of my cyber-life. Marking the passage of time—a concern of politicians, dictators, and ordinary folk alike—satisfies an insatiable, primordial urge: to know we have made some difference in this event we call human life, and, moreover, to have evidence of it. Technology simply permits this performance, this making of a spectacle of oneself all the easier, accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the will to maintain a website.

I make a public spectacle of myself each day. As a professor, I am expected to communicate information and ideas, to urge students to think and process, to assist them in their discovery of the world and, invariably I am convinced, their selves. But communication is not merely verbal; its physical dimension matters significantly. The mannerisms and the movements of the body, the pauses and exuberances of the hands (and in my case, my clumsy feet), and the sheer magnitude of facial expressiveness can convey more than a verbal array (or assault) of words. Thus I have resisted the blog, despite being a voracious consumer of some blogs, for in my infinite need for privacy and shelter from the world, the blog, my blog, represents yet another intrusion into myself, yet another example of the spectacle in a world full of those who, in varying degrees of desperation, need to be spectacles.

Yet the blog very well might be construed differently than the reality show, or the “real housewives” who crash high socio-political dramas such as State Dinners, or the cell phone user who unabashedly tells all those in Acme's aisle 4 that her cheating SOB of a boyfriend came back to her with both news of a tumor and his love for her and that she, having had her own steamy affair (linger a little while longer over which type of flour to buy—whole wheat or bleached?—and you, too, will learn in explicit detail of her paramour’s bodily attributes and doings to her), will take him back.

But the blog can be anonymous. The blog can be thoughtful. The blog can do, and often does, what these other forms of being a spectacle do not: they provide windows on an inner self, a soul, a thinking and feeling being, a moment to pause and distill the essences of the buzz and superficialities than often are our lives. And perhaps in their anonymity, they permit us to be more open than we otherwise may be.

Blogs may very well be analogous to the unfurling fronds of a fern in early spring, or the emerging spikes of the hosta piercing up through the soil (often, delightfully, spearing the nearly skeletal remains of a browned leaf that lay atop), or the exquisitely unfolding leaf, all of which expose, quietly as it were, their transformations to those who care to stop and observe. Blogs, like the gardeners who cultivate and celebrate these natural performances, publicize the infinite transformations, and assure us that we exist and have left, or are making, a mark, no matter how miniscule, on the inexorable march of time. And, like the life of the plant, the documentation is not for others, but for the self. No matter if you fail to stop to watch the unfurling frond, the fact remains that the plant will continue to transform, to fulfill its telos as Aristotle would remind us. The same for the blog, as I have come to realize: no matter that no one reads this. The record is for me, an assurance that I think as I garden, that I garden as I think.

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