observations and opinion
Loneliness, I figure, is the origin of most writing. You might have a full life – too full a life – but inside you lurks another person, who doesn’t get out much. That ghost in the machine might be opinionated, poetic, observant or just a ranting oaf. Usually a blend of them all, in my experience. And that person inside, who may have little or much to say of value about little or everything, wants to be in the world. Words are the grapple hook into the rock face; the blog is the rope you throw.
A blog is inherently self-indulgent, in the sense that one indulges in a display of thoughts and observations, to a world which is really not waiting for them. A blog about your blog, which this entry happens to be, is like pointing two mirrors at each other and hoping for something pretty to appear in one of them. So be it. It’s my blog, after all. “I cried when I wrote this song, sue me if I play too long.”
My blog, which began life fitfully 25 months ago, started as nothing but an unimaginative name, “Law on Politics” and a short hello to the universe. I went about blogging precisely as I do buying clothes and shoes (I get them, take them home, put in them in the closet and 8 months later see the package and think, “oh yeah….”) When I finally felt enough distress about something political, Law had something to say on politics, and the process began. My readership of one (me) was loyal and happy with it. I was pretty obsessed with the 2012 U.S. Presidential election and that fed the content. Ever so gradually friends and strangers added on to the thing, fitfully. That culminated in “Fox sits Shiva“, a rather biting study of election night coverage on the arch-conservative Fox News network. This piece was a hit with Democrats in the U.S.A., who made it by the far the most read item I’ve written.
Now, aside from the thousand plus people who clicked on this site November 7th 2012, the numbers are pretty modest. Thirty, forty, fifty a day lately, which for me is a tidal wave; more often days like today, a dozen or so visits. It may be that most days, some friends of mine, or relatives, just automatically click on the thing all day long to inflate my stats and my ego. Maybe, but if so then okay, at least I’m REALLY popular with one person. So thanks, one person, if you’ve been doing that.
More likely strangers stumble into the blog and perhaps, there are some people who have decided to read it occasionally. You may be one of those people (indeed, you must be one of them) and for that, I am grateful. Grateful because, despite the inherent pleasure one derives from writing, there is an added satisfaction in the notion someone else takes pleasure in the product. The numbers tell me that may be happening, so I care about the numbers.
Today’s number is “100.” This is the one hundredth published entry on this blog. It is as meaningless as any other number but we all choose these arbitrary sign posts along the road. So what about the numbers? Putting aside the aforementioned and freakishly popular “Fox sits Shiva” and the site’s Home Page what are the most-read items I’ve posted?
It is hard to know where people go when they visit the Home Page – they might scroll down for hours or just see enough sentences to escape in a hurry. But the individual pieces tell me something about who you are, you anonymous reader you.
My blog is liked by American Democrats. “Ford is the Drug” is emblematic: it targets the more odious aspects of right wing populism, a generally American phenomenon which has become a living, breathing monster in the person of the Mayor of Toronto. “JFK and the Awful Grace of God” is a sentimental visit to Camelot and the world lost when that President was murdered. The reaction to my three blogs on Woody Allen reflects an audience made up of the people you would expect to love his work, and the people you would expect to loathe him personally. A perfect reflection of the writing, I guess.
In the Fall of 2013 I re-christened the site, because its content was rapidly evolving into something more personal, usually embedded in a discussion of music or events. The name “Think Anew Act Anew” was meant as tribute to Lincoln, but also to signify what I wanted to do with the blog: change personally.
“The Lift Bridge” has been the most popular of the personal entries and indeed, it took off a like a little rocket: more people read that blog in two days, than anything else I’ve written (except for the Fox News thing, of course). A few entries have been mercifully brief (“Love Letter” and “Philip Seymour Hoffman“) and reasonably well-liked. Admittedly, longer ones (such as “Songbird over the Rainbow “”) are like a man staggering along a beach for miles – you don’t know if he’s going to swim, drown, collapse or climb over the dune for home. And by the end you may not care. Sorry about that, if you actually got to the end of them.
It is nice to have readers, whoever they are, but ironically the work that matters the most to me – and which I believe is the better-written – is not always so widely read. “There’s a place for us (the Wedding Singer)” is an anecdotal reminiscence which can matter only to the people it’s about, but I like it as a piece of work. “The Big Equal Sign“, “The Tiger Test” or “Ready to Take a Chance Again” which are about very personal things, seem to me not bad pieces of typing. To the extent I know why people have read them, it seems to be the universal themes (parenthood and love) which resonate.
But there are two, “Five Minutes of Happiness” and “What are you doing New Years ” which remain most important to me. They describe people I love, people who at moments when they were most afraid, were most courageous. This is a quality I greatly admire and aspire to live more fully off the page.
“Nelson Mandella and Pieces of the True Cross” which is a recent but not much-read entry, is the piece of writing I like the most on all these pages. It is a distillation of what the blog has become: finding the world in the personal, and the personal in the world. And it says something which bears repeating, at least to myself:
I think one of the largest parts of love, is knowing in our bones, the beauty and potential inside someone, even if they can’t feel it themselves. Especially when they can’t feel it. And the worst loneliness comes, when no one is there to show us what we cannot see in ourselves.
We have constructed a hard world, stacks of bricks mortared together over lakes of concrete and ribbons of asphalt. We roll too fast over it all, in boxes of glass and steel. But there is a world beneath what we have built, a world where weeds and wheat and roses wait for the sun. That world, the real world inside, can never die. We are too seldom in that world, but you just have to take a hammer to one hard place and swing. When you do, amazing things, surprising things, are ready to spring up through the cracks.
That of course, is what I’m doing here. I still have no earthly idea what YOU are doing here, but I’m glad you’re doing it.