Monday 18 February 2002

Blogging as radical self-transformation

The topics fly past at Keep Trying, like local stations seen briefly from the window of an express. Sometimes I’d like to get off and stretch my legs—as with the discussion about the real you (a.k.a. the unitary self vs. the multiplicity of me’s)—but we’re already too far down the track. As Shelley puts it, “There is nothing more discouraging than to become excited about something and then receive silence.” One faces a couple of choices in that situation: to continue to speak in the face of silence or to switch to a subject with more general appeal.

Today Mike Sanders deftly merged two recent Burningbird topics that generated lots of comment friction: “how much is too much [personal sharing in a weblog]?” and “blogging about your blogging.” Mike observed:

…blogging about blogging is not about blogs. It’s about life. The blog is just giving us a new mechanism of examination. Examining ourselves, examining our relationships, examining our pleasures, examining our world. And many of us are energized by the wonderment of it all.

If you don’t enjoy the discovery process, thats ok with me. (Not that you need my ok.) I agree that the introspective part of it can be discomforting. Our culture does not encourage introspection and many have not had positive experiences with it. But at the core, I think we all are growth oriented and introspection is critical to personal growth.

I agree that “introspection is critical to personal growth” though, in the world that I inhabit, I see scant evidence that “we are all growth oriented”. Still, as Mike would probably say, who am I to judge?

The use of the blog as a “new mechanism of examination” meshes with an essay I discovered via Arts & Letters Daily: Thomas Nagel’s New Republic review of Rüdiger Safranski’s Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, a biography that largely ignores outer events to concentrate on “the temporal course of Nietzsche’s inner life and his self-transformation through thought and writing.” Introducing Nietzche’s project, Nagel writes:

To take oneself and one’s world as given, and move forward intellectually and practically from that starting point, was in his view a betrayal of the extraordinary freedom that we possess as reflective beings. Nietzsche recognized that, like all human beings, he had reached consciousness with a sense of himself and a system of values that was produced by a tangled human history together with biological sources of which he was largely unaware. To take real possession of himself, to discover who he was and to decide who he wanted to be, required a bringing-to-consciousness of everything that lay beneath and behind the socially developed and educated human being—the constructed individual who handles the world with concepts, values, and methods of thought whose sources and true meanings he does not understand. It required a radical self-transformation.

There’s a difference between Nietzche’s bringing-to-consciousness of everything that lies beneath and, in Shelley’s phrase, the “complete and uncontrolled dump of self.” The latter represents Doc’s “abundance of blogging dreck” that mainstream pundits snidely emphasize. Once again, as Doc so neatly puts it, “the majority defines the entirety.” But only if you measure quantity rather than quality. The blogs I respond to are informed, articulate, gracefully written, courageous, revelatory, and radically self-transforming. And there are already too many of them for me to discover, let alone visit regularly.

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© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour