March 2nd, 2010

cocked and loaded


Do you think that what you have to say is less important because it's on the Internet? Would it have more value, ring truer, be BETTER if it were between the covers of a book, printed on newspaper, glossy in a quarterly? Would it be more impressive, or more importantly, carry more weight?

My words fly out into the ether here, roll around on the front page of this journal for a couple of days and then are scrolled under. Soon they're a click away, then two clicks away, then three klicks and suddenly we're talking the distance of kilometers—gone. Light years: out of sight and totally out of mind. Archived, baby. What I tend to forget is that my words aren't just rolling by here, flying away into nothingness. They're a freighted arrow straight into the heart of a friend, the mind of a kindred spirit, the daily routine of a thinker or a dreamer or a person who might have something in common with me on that particular day.

Even if part of what I write here is for myself, a great part of it is me reaching out, hopefully reaching you. Touching a chord. Ringing a bell. Sounding a chime in the depths of relationships that cordon this globe, that begin with me to you and you to me. Did you hear that? That's a special harmony that we're making here: me writing, you reading, you commenting, me responding, and so on. And when you add your own voice, it just deepens and tightens this music of the minds: you writing, me reading, ad infinitum.

I've been journaling online since August 2003. That's six and a half years. You might think I'd be tired of it by now. You might think I've said everything there is to say; begun to run out of steam, begun to repeat myself. You'd be right, some days. Everyone who writes finds their voices blocked sometimes. By self-doubt, by busy lives and other priorities, by deflation and reaction and that niggling little idiot-brain-goblin that pinches you in the creative parts and cuts off your inspiration. Do you think your words matter less because they don't always sparkle in the sun? We're all reaching out, looking for someone to hear us, someone to listen, and someone to say: O! I get it.

Marilyn wrote a post the other day part of which struck me and resonated, but perhaps not for the reasons she might expect:

i have a profound desire to simplify these days. i've noticed over the last year that as that desire has grown stronger, i've had less to least online. quite often i'll log onto Twitter, Facebook or Google Reader and read a lot of tweets, updates and blog posts...and not say anything at all. it's not that i don't feel i have anything to's that i don't feel the need to say something. do you know what i mean? i always prided myself on being a 'good' blog commenter. i wanted my blogging pals to know that i'd read their posts, so i'd try to leave a sincere say "i hear you." i still hear you...i still care about what's happening in your lives...i guess i've just let go of the need to validate that over and over...and over. those of you who know me (even if you've never met me IRL) understand what kind of person i am. i don't have to comment my ass off to convince you that i care about your already know that. you know that if you need me, i'm here for least i hope you do. so if i appear to be commenting a lot less, it's not that i'm not reading your's just that lately i've felt compelled to shut the hell up.

I get this. I can totally relate, in a way. But, if I don't call the friends who live near me and talk to them, invite them over, go out to lunch with them, acknowledge them in some way, our friendships will slide and erode until they are washed away in the general rush and tumble of regular life. If I don't email my mom and my siblings, if I don't write letters to my far-away friends and relations, how exactly are they supposed to know I am thinking about them? How are you? Why should I treat my online relationships any differently? Why would I want to take our relationship for granted? For me, living so far away from so many of my loved ones, this is by no means a way of behaving that I take lightly.

Like Marilyn, I no longer feel that I need to "comment my ass off" but neither do I feel that it's okay to read and never comment, never validate, never acknowledge or listen. I will always try to take the time to let my friends know that I am listening. There are lots of journals and blogs I read that I rarely, if ever, comment on. I can't comment on everything, don't feel the need to, but neither would I consider those writers to be someone close to me and I certainly wouldn't be offended if they didn't consider ME a friend. How could they, if I don't share the basic tenets of friendship with them? It takes two to tango and two, at least to blog: one to write and one to respond. Not just from me to you, but from me to you and you to me and back again.

So, even on those days when my words feel lighter than air, when they have no weight and could easily dissipate into vapor and memory, I send them winging out. Not every time, not every day, but as much as I can, because that's what a great part of this journal is all about: me, holding up my end of a friendship with you. My comments, my posts, my words: did you hear that? O! I get it!

*Title from a quote by Confucius