Rules of Engagement
No, this isn’t going to be a discussion of military tactics. Rather, the need for real human engagement is pressing down on me. And if these disembodied words floating through the ether are going to have any effect we need to do something to prevent them from being trampled in the dust. So it occurs to me before I start writing on whatever subjects call to my attention that I need to set forth some guidelines as to what this is and is not.
First of all, I am not writing the kinds of things I could write on Facebook, Myspace, etc. I won’t be commenting on what I had for breakfast, whether it’s a sunny day, diary entries, why I can’t find work or whom you should vote for in the coming (or passing) elections. The social networking sites live and breathe this stuff. While it’s nice to keep, perhaps, a digital finger in someone else’s pie I don’t find a need to do that over and over in every format.
What I do find a need for, desperately so, is a place to share thoughts that have some measure of substance. And to receive feedback in a like manner. I’ve often been asked, reminded, cajoled, commanded to get some of my observations down in some form other than passing conversations. I guess I’m finally listening. Of course, that assumes that I have something worth hearing. If I do, and I’m gambling that something I have is worth reading, that this isn’t a waste of time… And if I do, then I have to find a way to get past the limitations of this medium, which are manifold.
The first problem I encounter is that either we often only exchange positive platitudes or enraged polarization. On the platitudinal level see Facebook. I’ve got 300-ish “friends” from all manner of my past and a few I’ve never met. So I have friends from my days living in Christian communes in the 70’s and also from my days submerged in the countercultural worlds of New York City in the 80’s and 90’s. All of these are mingled with various stripes of erstwhile and permanent Alaskans. Apart from their basic humanity what do all these people share in common? Not a whole lot. I’ve got Tea Party folk and performance artists, Christian scholars and fishermen. I’ve got the politically correct, both left and right variations, and politically incorrect, again across the spectrum. So what do I write as headlines that will actually communicate something?
But that’s another problem in itself: Headlines and Captions. It is clear to me that more and more people spend more and more time within their virtual social districts. I know I’ve had people reject invitations for physical human interaction that probably went home and spent time with their “friends”. How many times have you had real life human conversations interrupted by cellphones, text messages, even that strange squirming anxiety, which comes from the suspicion that someone somewhere out there might be trying locate you? I’ve felt it myself. It seems sometimes that our lives have been reduced to headlines and captions and no content. Are people still seriously writing diaries? Or does online time eat up the individual self?
Next issue: So who is going to even read this? I’ve already broken the first rule of Internet writing by making my paragraphs too long. And I’m sure I’m going to break several more. The second one is to convey a sense of what my perspective is, knowing that it is best classified as “none of the above”. First of all I am a Christian. Second of all I am deeply suspicious of the Right Wing and commercialized variants of contemporary Christianity. Third, the Left Wing styles leave me just as cold. What does all of that mean? Well that’s a lot longer of a discussion than I should indulge in at this moment.
Add to that the following: I am deeply involved with many of the countercultural movements of the last 100 years: Expressionism, Surrealism, Hippies, Punks, Alternative Culture, etc, etc. And at the same time I mourn the loss of the old classic Western Culture. How do I reconcile these two opposing directions? You’ll have to keep come back for more to find out. And there are many other seeming contradictions to contend with: city/country, American/European, rules/freedom, faith/science, etc. All of which give me ample subjects to opine upon.
So, my rules? Subject-wise, the road might go anywhere. But it will never be the kinds of things best expressed in social networking. I have no political ax to grind. But I do have opinions that range from left to right, from monarchy to anarchy, from conservative to radical. But I don’t believe in rants, another Internet specialty. I do believe in reasoned, measured and passionate discussion.
Who am I writing this for? People who are thoughtful and are still willing to read. And it is quite clear that this number is being thinned daily. I don’t actually care whether they are Christian or not, as long as they find the subject interesting. And I will be allowing myself to discuss films, music, social events and conditioning, technology, philosophy, theology, comedy, fashion, puppetry and anything else that I feel like, with personal asides when relevant.
As far as comments go? Well that would be wonderful. But be warned this is a real problem area! I will delete any comments, that seem to be uncivil, trollish, flame-like. Ranters take heed. Likewise I’m not too interested in pointless agreement, ala Facebook “likes”. I will be pointing back to this moment, when comments frustrate me. BUT!! Disagreement, even sharp disagreement, is fine and needed. As long as there is a willingness to discuss, debate, expose, repudiate and the like in a civil manner. And likewise agreement should be thoughtful. (Talk about swimming against the current!)
As far as why I am writing this… read Welcome to the Anadrome.
Thanks for your Time, a resource of ever increasing value.