The other day, I was talking about this blog with a dear online friend who, at some point, told me he had learned quite a bit that was of value to him from my posts about love. At first, I simply took that as an extraordinary compliment because my friend impresses me as himself knowing quite a bit about love. I filed it away then.
This morning, however, our conversation came back to me with a twist. I suppose that part of our brain that mulls things over without our knowing about it had in my case been busy mulling over his words, because I woke up this morning seeing them in a new light. So, now I’m wondering how much we can actually learn about love from a blog.
In fact, I’m not sure we learn much about love we are not already prepared to learn. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me the reader brings almost as much to what is learned as the author.
I think there might be a very simple way of illustrating the point. Suppose I were to write, “I am wearing a bright red sweater this morning.” What, if anything, have you learned about the real world from me? I think to answer that question — really answer it — you would need to test your understanding.
The simplest way of performing that test — at least in theory — would be for you to show up at my door this morning and then observe what I’m wearing when I respond to your enthusiastic knocking. If you see what you expect to see based on my statement, then we can say you learned something about reality from my statement. But if you do not see what you expect to see, then we can say you didn’t learn something about reality from my statement.
Now, having said all that, we can look a bit closer at what’s going on there. It seems to me when I say, “I am wearing a bright red sweater this morning”, I am at best imparting only a little more information to you than you yourself have brought to the discussion. At best, it’s as if I am telling you perhaps eight things with that sentence — seven of which you already know.
You already know what “I” means to me; you already know what “am” means to me; you already know what “wearing” means to me; and so on. In other words, you are well prepared to learn the one or two things about reality you didn’t already know before you read my sentence.
Having said all that, I think I’ve illustrated a relatively simple way of looking at the question of how much we can learn about love from a blog. If you have learned anything about what I’m wearing this morning from my blog, it’s because you already know most of what I’ve told you. And, in the same way, if you have ever learned anything about love from my blog, it’s because you already knew most of what I told you. That seems to me the simplest way to look at it.
What I’ve said so far has merely discussed a theoretical reason we actually might not learn as much about love from a blog as we first suppose. When it comes to this particular blog, however, there happens to be a more practical reason. That is, I’m no longer in the teaching business.
I’ve only once been in the teaching business when it comes to blogging. I began blogging in 2004 and my early posts were all of them informative. I quit after two dozen of them, both because I hadn’t gotten the hang of writing that kind of post, and because I wasn’t much enjoying myself.
In 2006, my therapist, Arun, began lobbying me to start blogging again. He hypothesized I needed the challenge to hone my writing and thinking skills. So, in early 2007, I deleted all but two poems from my 2004 posts and began blogging as therapy.
I figured I wouldn’t get an audience, but I nevertheless wrote to accomplish two goals: Write to provoke thought and to provoke discussion. I like to think and I like to discuss what I think, so the goals kind of suggested themselves to me.
So far as I can see, those two goals favor somewhat different styles of writing than a style you might adopt if your goal were to teach something. I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think the style of writing I’ve worked out is optimal for teaching. Instead, I think my style is more suggestive. It is more suited to provoking thought and discussion than to imparting information.
For instance: a few days ago, I wrote on “the difference between loving someone and loving an idea of them“. The post got an overall positive response and was picked up by some other bloggers, who expanded on it. I got some wonderful comments and emails from folks stating — in effect — the post resonated with them. Yet, did anyone learn much about love from the post they didn’t already know?
I won’t presume on my readers to definitively answer that question, but my hunch is the post mostly help clarify for some readers what they had already seen on their own. And I suspect for some other readers — such as this fellow — the post was a waste of their time because it failed to impart enough information for them to see what they were not well prepared to see. By no means is it the reader’s fault that I don’t always provide enough information for him or her to clearly see what I’m talking about.
To be sure, I could write a volume or two on just the differences between loving someone and loving an idea of them. But my style is not so much intended to inform the reader as it is intended to point to something — as concisely as I can — and then ask, “What do you think of that?” As I see it, I draw stick figures, but you, the reader, flesh them out based on your own experience of what a real man or woman should look like.
So, for all the above reasons, I think it can be said my blog doesn’t teach much about love my readers don’t already know. At this point, however, I don’t know whether I’m making any sense because I began going to sleep half way through writing this article. Apparently, six hours of rest wasn’t enough last night. That alarms me because I have a lot of work to accomplish today. So I think I’ll go for a walk in the brisk winter sun. Feel free to comment!