Thursday, February 26, 2009

What shall I be today?

I started this blog 3 years ago when I was in the middle of a 6 year long bout of chronic insomnia. I was having trouble with my dissertation and, consequently, had nights in which I never fell asleep. At all. I'd lie awake in bed, thinking, and get up once I saw light in the sky.

I'd usually force myself to stay awake and go to bed early but sometimes, at least once a month, I'd go two days/nights without sleep. I did my share of chemical experimentation when I was in college but nothing can compare with going without sleep for 40 or 50 hours. You enter a different stage of consciousness, between wakefulness and unconsciousness. I used to put away my car keys so I'd stay off the road...I think sleepy drivers are a bigger cause of accidents than drunk drivers.

So, I started this blog as a creative outlet, a place where I could put out random thoughts and ideas, sort out things in my mind. And it was mine alone, I think I wrote on and off for a couple of years before I had anyone read my blog and post a comment. I was frankly shocked. I know the Internet is about the least private medium that exists but I was lulled into thinking of this blog as a personal diary.

Against the common wisdom that bloggers want bigger & bigger audiences, I haven't known how to handle having people read my blog, commenting on my entries. In one sense, it is extremely flattering and I'm grateful for the interest and people taking time to read but most people act differently when they know they have an audience. Before, no one knew who I was so I was free to say whatever I wanted because no one was listening (that I knew about!).

Since Twitter, all that has changed. I'm engaged in conversation with a lot more people online than I ever thought imaginable...and because I wanted to fill out the Twitter bio and there is a website link, I linked to this blog. In a sense, that was inviting, maybe even advertising, for readers.

So I've been trying to sort out in my mind what this blog should be...should I continue with the personal stuff that is more intimate and of limited interest? Or should I focus my writing on a topic like Twitter or social media and try to make an intellectual contribution, linking to other blogs and participating in a larger discussion?

The common approach now in social media is to blend ones personal and professional lives together but this goes against all of my training as an academic. I don't think that people interested in my social critiques want to hear me complain about my cat.

But I could be wrong! Let the experimentation continue!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rend your hearts...Reprise

...not your garments (Joel 2: 13)

I always loved this passage on Ash Wednesday. I think it means that true sacrifice, opening one's heart and soul to change is preferable to large, emotional displays of grief and penance, overly pious attempts to beat oneself up, psychologically speaking....where one wallows in despair rather than making oneself vulnerable to the realization that we are imperfect.

Ash Wednesday is seen as a solemn ritual, one where you reflect on sin/errors, ways we've disappointed ourselves, others, or God, and how limited is our time on this Earth. But it is also about second chances, of leaving behind the wounds of past, those done by us or done to us. As the song says,

We offer you our failures,
We offer you attempts
The gifts not fully given,
The dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
Give our visions wider view,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to you.
"Ashes" (Conry)

We burn our past misdeeds, the sources of shame in our lives, our failings, into ashes and, like a phoenix, "create ourselves anew", hopefully, into a person more faithful to one's self and one's community. This can involve discipline and sacrifice but also forgiveness and redemption, and the happiness that can come from having integrity and a clear conscience.

May this Lent bring you to a clearer understanding of yourself and your place in the universe.

Edit: I am taking a Social Media fast day but broke it to repost this blog entry I first posted on March 1, 2006. It still holds true for me.