Why We Do This


You know, blogging is time-consuming if you commit to it. I spend a few hours before I go to work reading and posting, a few more hours after work before I go to bed, and most of the hours of my days off doing this. I do one or two long posts a day and a couple that are just links, and just that much can take in excess of 4 hrs. The two series I wrote took twice that–8+ hrs per installment. Other people are probably swifter writers and better typists than I am but the fact is that blogging takes a lot of time.

Which is why you see bloggers periodically taking large chunks of time off, and why the saying ‘real life gets in the way of blogging’ has become a cliche. The anonymous genius behind Media Whores Online is gone, probably, he says, for ‘a few months’; Phaedrus, the lone ‘lumpen proletariat’ voice, took two weeks off and came back determined to drastically reduce the time he used to spend posting; and I was damn near off the air for good not too long ago when employment and transportation difficulties threatened to take me offline and perhaps even to have to sell the computer. I’ve dodged that for the moment, but the possibility is always out there, hanging over my head.

But the most common price we all pay is the Relationship Price: the loss or potential loss of significant others who don’t get it. I’ve been writing all my life, and while I’m hardly the perfect lover and companion, my partners could deal with my flaws and foibles and mis-steps reasonably well as part of the terrain that comes with the territory in relationships. What they couldn’t deal with, any of them (with one exception, the only one I truly miss), is the time my writing took away from those relationships. It was always, in the end, unacceptable to them to play second fiddle to a typewriter–or, now, a computer word processor. You can hardly blame them. It’s why I live alone. Within two weeks of moving in with my last SO, a woman who professed great admiration for writers, she was appalled to discover what it meant in reality.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about people who don’t write is that they apparently believe it happens by magic–that we sit down and, in Annie Lemott’s unforgettable phrase, ‘type away like a court reporter’ for a few minutes and WHAMMO!, we’ve produced a book and have the rest of the day free to spend with them. When they discover the truth, they are inevitably surprised and horrified.

At first they take it personally, as if it’s somehow a comment on their undesirability, which is bad enough, but then they decide it isn’t them, it’s you, and they act like it’s either a character-flaw or a mental disability that you could overcome if you just wanted to bad enough, and really, isn’t there a pill you could take or some treatment that would help? When it eventually dawns on them that this is endemic and that it’s always going to be this way, that’s when they call it off.

I told you all that as background for posting this remarkable piece by Benedict Spinoza of Benedict@Large. Benedict has been going through a split with his SO and one of the issues appears to be his blogging. This is his attempt to explain to her why he does what he does, and spends so much time doing it. I hope he’ll forgive me for posting the whole thing, but I couldn’t bear to chop it into excerpts.

I know that you hate it when I talk about politics, so forgive me this brief instance.We live in a country that is half crazy. We coddle ourselves with lies while we are being taken to the cleaners. We support things that are directly against our own self-interests, ignoring the glaring facts as we go.

I am very afraid, but I am not afraid for myself. If I died tomorrow, I’d go out saying, “Wow! That was cool.” You object when I answer you, “Oh, well” to something significant, but there really is a reason behind that. I grew up a poor boy, and JFK put me through an Ivy League university. That alone enabled me to live a fabulous life. Yes, I am close to the bottom today, but I would not have traded a second of my life for anyone else’s. I have been First Mate on a yacht, I’ve been a white-glove waiter, I’ve been “The Poet” of Mackinac Island, I’ve been a high powered and priced computer consultant, and I was known as “Mr. Calculation” at the largest group insurer in the world. I can also dig a ditch better than anyone else I have ever met, and when the plumbing explodes, they call me to fix it. So I really have had a quite marvelous life, and I wouldn’t even trade my jail time for a different one.

But I am very afraid. Not perhaps even for you. You too, like me, have lived a good deal of life, and in your more reflective moments, you too, like me, perhaps would also say, “Wow! That was cool.”

No, I am not afraid for you and I. I have this theory, you see, that life begins at 13 years old. Before then, everything is about toys and home. It is only when a child reaches 13 that they begin to see the world as part of themselves. They in effect “leave home” at that age and begin for the first time to see themselves as a part of something much larger. A part of the world.

So I am afraid for your daughter. Not just her, of course, but for all of those who are her age. You and I have tasted life well, but they have not. They are just beginning to get their taste of this. They deserve for their flavor of this to be at least as good as ours was. And we have failed them.

We have screwed this whole thing up. We have sat and watched our TV’s, buying into the pabulum they present to us. We have bought into the obvious lies there because it was easier to do so then spend the time to find the truth. We largely did this all just to make a few more dollars, convinced that by doing so, we would make this whole thing better for our children. While that is indeed laudatory, it has not worked out that way.

We have screwed this whole thing up, and I am outraged. How dare we pass this mess that we have created by our own blindness onto your daughter? She and those like her deserve so much more from us, and we have failed them.

So if you want to know why I do what I do, I am doing it for your daughter and those like her. I sat by for years and let this all happen, and to tell you the truth, I am ashamed of myself for that. I am simply trying to correct that mistake.

Thank you for this, Ben. You said it for all of us, man.

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