Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bloggito Ergo Sum

I've decided to do the blog thing. I have always hated blog people - the blogging class, that ultrahip, black-rimmed-glasses-wearing, Death-Cab-for-Cutie-listening cabal - but neither they nor I appear to be going anywhere, so I suppose this is my way of making common cause. Anyway I write very little these days, and at present all of that is for myself (and most of it is rubbish), so perhaps the added burden of a potential audience will light a fire under me.

I will explain two things as a preface. The first is the web address for this little project. After spending more than a quarter-hour trying to find something that's not been taken - this page's rather apropos title was taken by a woman called Laura's two-paragraph effort from 2003 - I lost my temper and the result was deemed acceptable. I left it.

The second is the title of this post itself; I thought myself very very clever for thinking of it in a vacuum. I could not resist temptation, however, and googled the phrase. Suffice it to say this particular pun is a bit worn; one of the results was even a spurious (but convincing) etymology for the word 'bloggito.' (Incidentally, it appears that the first-person singular for the word 'cogito' is the same as the infinitive; that is to say to express 'to think' and 'I think' is indistinguishable using that Latin.) The reference, of course, is from Descartes' famous thought experiment from the Discourse. I nevertheless decided to keep the title, as it was witty whether or not I was the first to cogitate it - as it were. It also speaks to what I wanted to address in my maiden speech.

A first post - like any first effort - is an issue of identity. Whatever the task at hand the first thing you in any new environment sets the tone for what you will be seen as and indeed what they will be. It's never just what it is - the first task at a new job, the first crisis under a new head of state - judged as a mere accident of time. It's a statement, whether you like it or lump it. In the case of this entry, I will attempt to make specific what the Hell this is all about, but there's more to it than just what I say. It will set the tone of my effort, to me and to you, my dear reader(s? no, never mind); it will also determine whether you'll ever look at this again. No comment.

So when I say "I'm starting a blog" (or a "blog thing"), what does that mean? This is not a journal and it is not a diary. The differences between the two are not for me to elaborate on, or even if there is a difference - both are explicitly personal, at least in the sense I'm using (obviously I don't intend Hansard- or Congressional Record-style journals). I do not intend to talk about myself anymore than is absolutely necessary to make a point (I have been rather more profuse than I'd have liked here); frankly I am quite boring, and ideally that is not a part of this effort.

That I am putting this up for public perusal rather than simply writing it on my computer and filing it into some bottomless subfolder means that I intend to say something I hope will be of some global value. I am not nor have I ever been of the opinion that a person has the right to a public hearing - morally or practically - simply because they exist. You have to have something to say; otherwise you're wasting everybody's time (or creating the potential for such wasted time) and abusing the public sphere as a result.

Thus I intend as far as possible to avoid bullshit generally, especially the personal or emotional variety (a daunting task for me, I assure you). That says little about what I am intending to do; unfortunately I am hard-pressed to be more specific. The title of the blog is meant to be reflective of the fact that I come into it with no specific intentions. It don't mean to say it will lack a theme - or in some banal way that its lack of a theme will be a theme. One may well come to light, and I may in time come to identify with and operate under it. I may write eighty entries in a row on floor lamps (or in an homage to an old friend, foam padding); but that does not mean the eighty-first will be, or that I am trying to produce the definitive work on floor lamps. A theme may in time emerge, to be sure, but I am not working towards it - themes prove restrictive more often than they prove helpful. There is time enough to identify an essence after the thing actually exists, assuming it holds my interest long enough to get that far.

I will offer the next best thing, however: an example I shall hope to emulate in the person of Michel de Montaigne. His writings were simply an earnest attempt to comprehend everything from the divine to the dirty as best he could. His essays ran the gamut from the problem of certain knowledge to cannibalism, but were always inquisitive and skeptical (perhaps to a fault). Indeed he coined what we know of as the 'essay': Essai is French for "I try." Generations of schoolchildren may hate him for it, but the project is a noble one. I do not necessarily agree with how he wrote or what, but his project is well worthy of that sincerest form of flattery. I am certainly not he, I grant you: but I try. That is my objective insofar as I have one.

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