The frequency and quantity of posts here at the buddha is my dj certainly fluctuates over time. But I feel as though I have written considerably less since September than I have in the past. No. Wait. Check that. I’ve written a ton; what I haven’t done is post any of it.
I have a file on my computer full of blog posts. Some half-finished. Some in pretty bad editorial shape. Others near completion with HTML mark-up and ready to go. But none of them posted. Some remain unpublished because half-way through I chickened out if I publish this, it’s sure to come back and bite me in the ass! Others are the type of post that seemed like a really good idea, that I was all fired up about, but before I finished was distracted by a phone call or a staff meeting and when I came back to the computer an hour or a day later, that fire was gone, the posts suddenly trite and unimportant. Other posts weren’t really appropriate for the public, personal thoughts best left in my head.
Over my nearly seven years of blogging here, I don’t think I’ve ever had this level of second-guessing. Looking back over the years, it’s fairly obvious that I’ve had a “post first, ask questions later” policy, posting things that were probably far worse, more controversial, more personal, more trite, more likely to get me in trouble than anything in that file of forgotten posts from the past six months. It leaves me wondering what happened. What changed for me in my relationship to blogging?
Part of it was an increase in traffic. And that brought with it an awareness of my audience. At one point in my blogging career, three people read my blog, one of whom I share a bed with. Now that I’ve gotten more traffic, the cat’s out of the bag, the genie out of the bottle. People are paying attention, so I’d better play nice.
To make matters worse, I’ve seen my name pop up here and there across the Internet in conversations I wasn’t even a part of. It’s been a bit disconcerting seeing my name used either as foil or accomplice to some argument that I don’t even care about. Suddenly I’m aligned on one side or the other of some epic battle but I’m not sure when I enlisted or if I even want to fight.
Plus, I made myself a promise that I would spend less time this year arguing with strangers on the Internet and more time devoted to my real-word communities of accountability where I would do my best to make (I hope) a positive contribution. As some folks have pointed out (here, there, and elsewhere), there is often a tone of finger-pointing in these arguments, in these epic discursive battles on the Internet, and I don’t want to be labeled as one of the finger pointers and nothing more. Unfortunately, I fear that I have already been labeled thus, by some, and I suppose that there’s nothing I can do about that. Ultimately, if someone out there wants to believe that I am little more than a man-hating, liberal nut job who hates whitey, no amount of my claiming to be the contrary is going to change anyone’s mind. Minds have been made up, and I’ll have to rest content with the notion that whereas these folks think that they know me because they read my blog or my Twitter feed, nothing could be further from the truth. What I choose to project out there on the Internet is just that a process of selection that highlights certain aspects of who (I think) I am while diminishing others. In short, this is not the sum total of who I am, so any time you think you’ve labeled me, you think you’ve figured me out, you think you’ve got my number you’ve missed the mark. It may be helpful for you to label me; go right ahead. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here in the real world not giving a damn.
Which is what it all comes down to, really. My desire to spend less time arguing with strangers on the Internet does not preclude me from engaging in online activities. And I believe that blogging is still a relevant and worthwhile activity, my detractors and critics notwithstanding. More importantly, blogging is not my only activity. It is not the only way that I contribute (I hope) positively my communities of accountability, both online and off.
I’ll let that file of forgotten blog pieces collect digital dust on my hard drive. I may mine it occasionally for good material. (There’s some great one-liners in there.) But I’ll keep it mainly as a reminder. A reminder of a period of my blogging career when I let answering critics become more important to me than the reason I started blogging in the first place to provide a space for conversation, to share resources and information with other folks who are as passionately interested in this crazy thing called Buddhism as I am.
And, of course, since “Buddhism” does not exist in a vacuum, since Buddhism is always embedded within specific historical and cultural locations, we’ll be taking up the issues and problems and controversies in those historical and cultural locations as well. I can already tell that a post from the ever-wonderful Rod Meade Sperry on the upper-middle way is going to provide me with a wonderful jumping-off point for a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for some time Buddhism and socio-economic class.
So. Until then.