The other day, I was looking at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, looking for something that I thought someone had linked to once. While I was there, I took some time to do the wayback on my own site, thinking about its many incarnations over the years. It dawned on me that I’ve re-done the layout of this site more times in the last six months than I think I have in the seven years of its existence. And I’ve got another major redesign in the works. What’s going on?
To squelch the fears of my loyal readers, I’ll say upfront that this is not my last blog post. It seems very clear to me that there are folks out there who are getting something from this blog, and, only slightly more importantly, I do enjoy writing for it. But at the same time, I can tell that my interests have shifted over the years, that my motivations and my needs have changed; and those changes will be reflected here, soon.
For starters, it is important to recognize that most blogs and most bloggers are narcissistic. I blog. I blog because I have the confidence that my ideas are worth reading, that someone out there would be interested in my ideas. If that’s not narcissistic, I don’t know what is. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing it’s neither good nor bad. When it comes right down to it, I’d hazard a guess that the vast majority of all media all of us consume on a daily basis was produced by narcissists who like to hear themselves talk. Just because it was produced, written, and acted by a bunch of narcissists doesn’t change the fact that Star Trek was a damn good flick.
My blog has not been immune to this tendency. But, then again, the reasons I started blogging are different than the reasons I continue blogging. I started blogging, in part, as a means of staying connected with my far-flung friends and relatives. It was easier to write a blog post about passing my language exams or my depressing and melodramatic dating life than it was to make a dozen phone calls.
But two things have changed since the heady days when I bitched about people stealing my laundry detergent. First, my audience has grown considerably. And while I’m sure my mom cares about whether I’m doing my laundry or not, I’m not so sure that the rest of you do. If I did nothing more than write about the pointless minutia of my daily life, would y’all continue to read?
The other thing that’s changed has been the rise of social networking sites. I am very particular about who I “friend” on such sites (Facebook in particular, their recent privacy issues notwithstanding), because I’ve been using those networks to keep my friends and relatives abreast of the minutia. And, sorry, but there are just some things that I don’t want to share with the rest of you. The result, however, has been that I spend more time on this blog focusing on Buddhism, politics, religion, the media, or whatever else I think my readers might be interested in hearing me pontificate on and less time on my personal life.
I tend to think of these posts as “first drafts,” as things I’m thinking about or reflecting on while writing about or teaching about them in other contexts. In those other contexts, my thoughts and words are more nuanced, more thought ought, better articulated and footnoted. I don’t want to give up that aspect of my blog. I think it has value. I think it has value for me personally, in that it gives me the chance to throw out some ideas, see if they have legs, get feedback, and refine, as necessary. And I think it has value for my readers, too, for the same reason that I think blogging in general has value, in that it is a way for disparate people to be exposed to new ideas, to connect with people they might not ordinarily connect with, and share their own ideas.
My post on Eshinni and Honen is a perfect case in point. To my great surprise, there’s toms of comments on that post, a topic that I didn’t think would be that interesting to that many people, and folks from all of the world are sharing their ideas. More than that, a couple of folks in that conversation are professional scholars, thus breaking that invisible and imaginary barrier between those inside and outside the Ivory Tower. I love that shit.
So, no, I don’t want to stop blogging. But that Eshinni post reminds me of something else rather important to me as of late: community. But more to the point, collaborative projects.
Like I said, blogging is narcissistic. Whereas there are plenty of group blogs (I need to give credit where credit is due and point out how important I think group blogs are and how important I think collaborative blog projects like Nate DeMontigny’s blog swap are), this isn’t one of them. It’s just me. Spouting my thoughts out into the void.
At the same time, I’ve been extremely fortunate as of late to find myself working on a number of collaborative projects. The DharmaRealm is one such project. It’s a joy to be able to record these conversations with Harry, and I don’t think our podcast would work as a solo project. I get the same sort of joy out of teaching; out of working with folks here at the Institute; out of my collaboration with Natalie for the Buddhism without Borders conference; and the work folks have been doing on PrapaÃ±ca.
I find myself gravitating more to these projects, my attention positively diverted.
Which is a good thing, too, because the fact of the matter is that I worry way too much about blogging. I don’t spend a ton of time actually writing. Writing happens quickly â€” like I said, it’s all first drafts â€” then a quick once-over for typos, and post post post. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about the comments that I get, that I don’t check my stats to see if my traffic is increasing or decreasing, that I don’t obsessively scour the blogosphere worrying about what others might be writing about me.
All of which is to say that in the coming months, I am going to be expending more energy on these other projects than I do on long-winded blog posts. Let me repeat, this is not my last blog post. I am not a big fan of making melodramatic pronouncements, throwing in the towel and deleting blogs whole cloth. All of the currently published material on this blog with remain on this blog.
You just might be seeing more of me in other places, in public, in podcasts, on bookstore shelves.
Having said that, I am also going to be moving this blog. This is not the first time that’s happened. I started out on buddhaworld. And long ago, the blog was powered by Moveable Type. And in another month or two, it’s going to move to a subdirectory of this site.
So consider this a warning. You’re going to have to change your bookmarks in a few weeks. I’ll give you plenty of warning and hopefully have a ton of redirects sprinkled liberally throughout this site to make sure no one gets lost.
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to say thank you. Bloggers (narcissists) probably don’t say it often enough. It would be nice to believe that I would continue to write a blog even if no one showed up to read it, but that’s a lie. I do what I do because I know that someone is reading. And for that I am grateful. I’m humbled to know that there are people out there who give a damn about the rambling, often misguided, thoughts of just another Buddhist academic.