Tag Archives: Internet

The Wider, More Ignorant World

Your words can live forever
cast out in the virtual plane.
They truly are immortal now,
and the internet’s to blame.

No matter your intentions
or the crowd you thought to reach,
your thoughts will be interpreted
and stretched until they reach

the few who you expected,
several more who understand,
a couple dozen converts,
maybe some who’ll take a stand,

and thousands, who although confused
by how you use your terms
will swear your wisdom isn’t fit
for thinking men, but worms.

But that is not the full extent
to which your text will go.
In violent, fiery rhetoric,
some radicals will show

that you are either full of light,
or bullshit, and your words
will serve to fuel the fires of hate,
no matter how absurd.

And nothing you can do or say
will make that flag unfurl,
once you decide to publish for
the wider, more ignorant world.

23 AUG 2017

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Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby

One of the greatest drives for me, as a writer, is producing for readers. That’s the one thing that keeps me writing in a journal, as opposed to channeling my energies into more traditional writing forms (i.e., novels, plays, short stories, chapbooks of poetry, etc.). It’s knowing that there are people out there who are to some degree anticipating hearing from me on a regular basis that gets me back to the keyboard on a regular basis. Certainly, if this journal proves anything, that impetus alone has generated a pretty substantial body of work. And to get comments from the otherwise faceless crowd, to share some connection or kinship of a sort — well, that’s icing on the cake. Knowing the audience is out there is the main thing, right?

But sometimes, that’s not enough. So there are on-line communities of writers, who presumably share a deeper connection right of the bat — that is, the Work. You post, but probably more hesitantly in a community than in your personal journal, and get back a bunch of comments about your work. Unfortunately, it seems like most of these comments are critiques, rather than camaraderie. Nits, rather than niceties. Cuts, not connections. It feels like “writing communities” suffer from a disconnect between the Work and the Life. As if, as a writer, it is easy to separate the two. When someone says, in the cold unemotive vacuum of an email, “I don’t like this piece at all,” it’s difficult not to feel an underlying “and I don’t care too much for you, either. I don’t care to figure out where you’re coming from, and that really doesn’t bother me a bit.” And let’s face it, even in a chat room, the lag between preguntar and contestar can be nerve-wracking and not at all conducive to conversation.

Sometimes, you need more. A face to face conversation over strong coffee and unfiltered cigarettes about philosophy, religion, politics and sex (in any combination). The ability to speak at different speeds, to emphasize with an expression, to use your hands … all nuances that are lost in the world of electronic communication. The palpable feeling of being able to open book, point to a passage and hold it under your companion’s nose for their perusal.

Talking on the Internet, be it on discussion boards, in chat rooms, via email, is at best two-dimensional. And you have to pick which two dimensions to use for each encounter. If you choose height and width, you give up depth. If you opt for width and depth, you lose height. In all cases, you only have half of the equation that determines velocity, because you have direction, but the speed is outside your control. And velocity is a key element of relationship growth.

So I wonder, as I put together another two-dimensional journal entry. Without the external stimuli of real conversation, actual intercourse between thinking beings, how much can I really say? And how much can you, the reader (or listener, rather), really hear? As I’ve said before, there is a point where a dialogue with self becomes a monologue. Is that the purpose of my blog — to simply be a diary? No. It is intended to be an initiation of a dialogue between myself and whoever on the other end of the wire is affected by what I’ve got to say — and is willing to reciprocate. Likewise, I choose the blogs I read to find that spark, that same longing for dialogue. I don’t care about the headlines, or current affairs so much, unless I’ve got a personal take on the situation. Often, I do. But I don’t report the facts, so to speak. I don’t need more facts. I don’t think ANYONE does. There are enough facts flying in the blogosphere without my regurgitating them from too many sources. If you want them, they are out there. Elsewhere.

So how about it? Coffee? A leisurely drag on a cigarette outside, over a stimulating discussion of how Shakespeare would have felt about the “show, don’t tell” school of poetry? Hmmm…

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Upon Being Invited to Study the Great Books Online

Thanks for the invitation. I must say, having looked into facilitating my own Great Books curriculum at several times in the past, that the concept is neither unfamiliar to me, nor uninviting. However, my reason for declining at present has little to do with the scope of the program, but more with the medium. I have participated in a number of online study groups, interest groups, etc., over the past ten years, and have found that while they do promote a degree of intellectual stimulation, and do foster a sense of camaraderie among participants, they by their very nature limit the exchange of ideas because they have as their foundation a sense of anonymity. It is very easy to expound one’s ideas, and wax philosophic, in the vacuum of not having to look another person in the eye. It is gratifying, particularly to one’s ego, to have the group linger on a thread of your own creation for endless iterations. However, too often it seems that is where it ends. Having a cluster of pen-pals, so to speak, does not improve my opportunity to have intellectual (or otherwise stimulating) conversations in real life, with people that I encounter in the flesh on a daily basis. Without that level of personal contact, having an exchange of ideas to me is stale and flat.

I don’t say that this particular curriculum or this forum will lead to that end. For me, however, particularly since my own meaning of an educated liberal extends FAR beyond the narrow, and one might even say, self-destructive, confines of Western culture, that at this point in my life, your group is not for me. It smacks too much of knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone, as some kind of barometer by which one can compare one’s education to others and somehow feel more justified in holding opinions, and grasping the illusory reins of control over a life that to be understood must be tasted in the flesh, rather than by sucking the aged marrow from its volumes of bones.

That’s a long way of saying, thanks, but no thanks.

However, I wish you success in this venture, and again, appreciate the invitation.

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Et tu, Brute, or Julius Caesar by Newsfeed

Sometimes keeping a journal can be compared to elective surgery undergone in lieu of some other action, corrective or otherwise, to remedy a more serious life-threatening condition. The act of journaling or blogging, for me, is less about getting my thoughts and creative aspirations down on paper than it is chronicling the space and time continuum in which those things arise. And really, it is less about that than it is about the interactivity of internet journaling.

To do interactive journaling right, from my perspective, is to follow where those who come to my journal come from — their journals, websites, associations, news sources. Sadly, it ultimately turns out that most blogs are not about the self of these individual bloggers, but more about their sources of information. There is, in a lot of cases, the misguided notion that the blogger is responsible for the only intelligent filtering of information available on the web. So many blogs are filled with clipped stories extracted from newsfeeds — that frankly, everyone else reads too — in an attempt to define one’s own political, spiritual and/or societal framework and/or agenda through some kind of William S. Burroughsesque cut-up of the reality they inhabit.

The problem, though, is that it is definition through exclusion, through the interplay of other peoples’ words. Very rarely — and this is what separates the mediocre news filter from the blog worth reading — the aggregator describes what is essential, absolutely necessary, and ultimately the most universal aspect of the selected news clipping — and that is its effect on them personally. In their own words. Now, these words may be disagreeable to me. They may be misspelled. They may not only disgust or amuse (and these seem to be the polar extremes, with tittilate and epiphanate floating somewhere in between) and they may cause me to shrink back in horror from the person whose self is revealed in their ramblings. But that is the REAL part of the news of that blog. That’s what makes it worth bookmarking, revisiting, and clipping from, not figuring out that of the 1,979 times Donald Rumsfield, for example, said something hideous today that was repeated on the web, that my blog has tracked down and collected 1,732 of them, and duly reported my findings like an objective reporter not personally affected by the findings or the outcome of an act, or somehow not part of the very statistics deemed worthy of report.

Because information is not an end unto itself. It cannot be. That’s like saying the Bible is God. As I’ve said before, that’s a little too limiting when it’s obvious that God is the entire library.

The point I’m trying to make is this: that it is not the information that is important, that is worth sharing — although the most interesting thing about news aggregation on the web is its explicit illustration that the freedom of the press, at least the mainstream press, is limited to those who own one. What is important is that there are people attached to those blogs. And those people, those individuals, who in these troubled times may be so afraid to not only give their opinion, but form it in the first place (after all, doesn’t the Bible say that to think about sinning is ultimately the same as committing the sin itself) have got to have something to say, something worth hearing, at least in their own minds, or they wouldn’t be going through the troubling of establishing on-line accounts, designing blog templates, accumulating directory links and cultivating friends-via-electron. But what is it they’re saying? Are we as a society claiming, boldfaced, that we are nothing more than how we are portrayed in the news? Is that all there is to it?

Sure, I’ve got an agenda. So does everyone else whose got a blog. It may be just a playful way to express an alternate side of yourself. It may be that you want some way to focus certain energies that affect your worldview. It may be that you’re simply tired of holding pen to paper, or phone to ear as a means for communicating “what’s really happening with me” to your friends, be they “real-life” or “on-line”.

I wonder, though, how many express that agenda in their own words, or taking the easy way out, like Dr. Frankenstein, create the monster that is their on-line selves using spare parts from other people’s bodies.

Bah. Enough ranting for today. I’m off to the Gulf of Mexico to dip my feet at the seashore.

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The Virtual World

So much pain and sorrow, so little joy!
It seems to me the world is full enough
with ugliness and the things that annoy
and irritate – why carry all that stuff

with you in a place where you can let go,
where appearance and local convention
don’t apply, where you can speak what you know
without fear, pressure or apprehension?

Why catalog the ways in which your life
has sucked, when the real world carries that news?
While it is good to find a caring ear,
does filling it with just darkness and strife
seem like the most productive path to choose?
Life is so short, and each moment so dear.

17 JUL 2003

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