by Yule Heibel on November 20, 2003

Thanks to wood’s lot for the pointer to Netwoman’s interview with Jeneane Sessum. What Jeneane says here in response to the question, “What has been your biggest challenge in the Blogosphere?”, made me pause more than anything for the way it rings true:

Not letting it take over my entire life, because if I could, I think I would live inside my blog. That is, except for the weeks that I despise it. (rest of interview here…)

The weird way that blogging can pattern your day-to-day life is akin to an obsession, or even a martial art. If you’re not very good, you can hurt yourself — sort of like a Ninja getting whacked by her own sword, or like an Animal Slave scratching at hives for others’ amusement. There is artistry in this, and it’s not easy to learn. I don’t have it down at all: my blog has been out of control (to my mind) and too much in control (of my mind?), as seen from where I’m sitting. I think of it this way: that there are the control freak bloggers who make the A-lists, the Aces of Mastery; and there are “the voices” who spend a lot of time digging into materiality (typically their own flesh) for the right pitch. Crazies, dreamers, desirous of unclassifiability because they write in part from pain, and who wish to kick against the pricks. Wanting to escape the web of preformed meaning. And sometimes playing with very sharp blades. You start to blog, sometimes making sense because you sound like everybody else does, sometimes making no sense at all because, while flesh is flesh indeed, yours is still different from mine.

Perhaps it’s love and passion that shows the way, though. If you write about the things that spark your sense of love and wonder more than about those that spark your anger or outrage and fury, perhaps you can find a pitch to work with. To do so wouldn’t mean condemning yourself only to “fluffy bunny” posts, since love can be fierce. And there’s no reason to stay consistent at all times: if something really “picks your ass” (as they used to say in one of my old junior high schools — it was a very picturesque place…), let it rip. Passion is good. However, my response to self-diagnostic tests, for example, which I despise because I see them as so many little strings in the preformed web of meaning — and I’m just paranoid enough to resent even imagining anyone having control of those strings — was informed at least as much by furious resentment of the instruments of control as by a passionate faith in diatribe facilitating escape from the web. And at a certain point — when furious resentment gets the upper hand — play, the natural expression of love, is pushed under. As a writer, the game is to facilitate a different reality. Liberation comes in many bodies, shapes, and forms. A “thing-in-itself” essentialist pseudo-reality, on the other hand, never changes shape, which is why it comforts the authoritarian soul, and drives the rest of us crazy. In the essentialist scheme of things, there is a telos, a kind of purpose or “natural” trajectory, however, which to me looks like a human-constructed belief system designed to keep everyone in line. Imperialists of political and psychic stripe want you to believe in essential realities, never questioning the layers of relationship and meaning, because they rely on the telos** to cut through everything as it streaks toward its goal. Hence my attraction to the absurd and the ludicrous, and my allergy to fundamentalism, theology, and “big picture” explanations.

And anger. There’s so much to get pissed off about, and we have so many ways of amplifying the GPO (“Get Pissed Off”) factor so that we can GPO even more. I even GPO over the counter-forces to GPO, all the ameliorating pablum, the advertising that tells us that the next gadget will fix everything, the idiotic political speeches: all of it. I GPO to the point where I work myself up into a spiral of self-inflicted hives. And what, I’d like to know, is the point of that? Like, on my deathbed will I say, “I wish I’d worked harder,” or, “I wish I’d worked myself up even more”? Or will I say, “I wish I’d played more,” as in, “Man, that was a great game”? Authoritarians will tell you that the game has an essence, summed up as, “the name of the game is winning.” But that’s not true. We all end up in the same place, in the end.

[** this link, a Sam Vaknin page, does an interesting job of talking about the differences between teleological vs scientific approaches to explaining the world. But I strongly feel that his error lies in raising both to ontological status. Both approaches have to be contextualised, otherwise you’re once again back to Plato and his noumenous forms. And miles from play or love.]

[And apologies to Jeneane & Netwoman for hijacking a perfectly wonderful interview; you’d think I was a pilot for Skyhigh…. ]


maria November 20, 2003 at 4:48 pm

Blogging as martial art certainly grabbed me by the eyeballs … what a great analogy! And, I certainly agree with you that one shouldn’t be trussed by the butcher of consistency when it comes to posting … after all, the heart of a blog is constricted and expanded by the blood of immediacy that courses through our daily lives. But, just as we should write about what “picks our ass” as often as possible, it’s strange how our archived posts can, sometimes, come back and bite us in the ass with the specter of some consistency in our attitudes and what have you … which is not to say that I am arguing for telos here, by the way … just playing a bit of Hume here….

I am sure Jeneane Sessum wouldn’t think of this as highjacking; more like flying a little higher and wider to take in that much more of the territory….

Netwoman November 20, 2003 at 7:19 pm

No problem. Good to see that the material lets people think about things. Thanks for reading.

Doug Alder November 20, 2003 at 10:46 pm

My perspective keep changing and I haven’t a clue what I’m doing on my blog anymore. At times it certainly seems to rule my life but most of the time lately I just want to shut it down.

Yule Heibel November 21, 2003 at 12:21 am

Yes, Maria, the martial arts reference probably points to my not-so-secret hankering to be Emma Peel…. Ah, inviolability & safety… And I love your analogies! I’ve indeed been bitten in the arse once or twice by archived posts. In fact, more than once I’ve come to understand why in previous epochs people published their journals posthumously

Netwoman, thanks for visiting!

And Doug, you too? What is that? Today I really felt danger — I heard this totally creepy newsreport about a woman on trial in Montreal for being in cahoots with a convicted dangerous sex offender (i.e. violent), with whom she plotted to hurt one of her female relatives and that woman’s children; this in the wake of my getting a comment from a neo-Nazi — I deleted his odious links & blocked him, too, but couldn’t actually delete his trace — and hearing about more of Bush’s Nazi antics in the UK — do you know, he actually answered a reporter’s question, “Why do so many people hate you?” with something that sounded as though “Bo” from AbFab could have said it (“It’s beautiful!”, and something about “freedom”…) — the only bright spot was the street theatre in the UK (which I can’t see since I don’t have tv) of demonstrators toppling a statue of Bush; I read a review of Martin Amis’s new novel (see Arts & Letters Daily) that got me back to my utter distrust of pornography, and more analogies to Bush & the 30s (fascist totalitarianism) kept coming up, and Ashcroft (or should I say Asscrotch) telling our Canadian solicitor-general Wayne “Woossie” Easter what’s what and to shut up and put up in the deportation and torture case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar… and on and on. Oh, I could cry.

My day’s highlight, once I got out of the house an hour before sundown, was rejoicing that shops on major shopping streets have almost no xmas decorations up yet. Thank god, that’s Victoria for you. Staid and traditional in so many ways, that being in so many ways a drawback, but at least “the season” doesn’t start until 1 December, instead of in the first week of October, as it did, competing with Hallowe’en decorations, in Mass.

Joel November 21, 2003 at 1:43 am

Eeep! Yule! I honestly had not seen you use the term “fluffy bunny” before I made my post about St. Francis tonight! I want to state that for the record, imperfect manifestation of saintliness that I am!

Stu Savory November 21, 2003 at 1:47 am

Hi Yule,
very nice article! But I would contend with one remark on your comment above . You wrote “the only bright spot was the street theatre in the UK … of demonstrators toppling a statue of Bush”.

The REALLY bright spot was the subtle nature of the Queens gifts to Dubya.
That was so neat, I just had to blog about it this morning.

BTW: I’m not sure whether when I wrote the word “gift” – as used above – I was thinking in English or German 😉

Your faithful reader,

Yule Heibel November 21, 2003 at 1:57 am

Joel, don’t worry — there’s enough fluffy bunny to go around. And I want to comment on your St. Francis entry when I find the ref to the recent take-down of Mother Teresa (in Salon), which Frank Paynter had pointed to and I linked to as well. (Probably tomorrow though, since it’s getting late & I’m real tired… 😉

Stu, great, I’ll have to check out your report. It’s so annoying to have such scant coverage — see Frank’s entry today on Robert Kennedy Jr. and media, too. I don’t have tv (just lots of DVDs of perverted comedy from Britain) so I miss a lot, but mostly I’m glad I do since there’s too much nonsense on anyway. But at any rate, I missed HRH-QEII’s contribution to the picture, so I’ll check in with you to learn more! (*Oh, and I “yanked” your chain for upbraiding Dave Pollard for his non-existing Yankisms, heh-heh! Cheers!)

Joel November 21, 2003 at 4:00 am

I’m expecting to be in big trouble for that St. Francis thing. My wife has already told the cats what I wrote and they refuse to let me pet them tonight.

Tomorrow, I’ll try again but with catnip.

brian moffatt November 22, 2003 at 4:26 am

great summa, yule.
well, I was beginning to wonder how much my blog ruled my life when my hard drive crashed (I think) and left me without my blog and my email (which I’m still without) and I survived – albeit just the three days.

I could easily blog and only blog. Do nothing but.

But then a kind of blognation would set in. I mean, this is not meant to sound unkind, but it’s like reading an interview with unknown poetry professors who quote the unknown and obscure modern day poets as though their significance to the rest of us is an obvious fact.

It’s like reading politcal blogs. The machinations of the machinations. Like looking at an old clock on the mantle for the time and then becoming fascinated by the gears and pinions. Why was I here? Oh yeah…what time is it?

At a certain point you want to scream: get a life. And those are the bloggers I read, those that have a life, and come to the blog and bring their life and love and pain and joy – all of it – with them.

And that’s also probably why I read more women bloggers and women bloggers read my blog . Women have an easier time with life. Even women consumed by career. It takes all of two seconds to disarm them and get them talking about something – life-ish.

And all of this does have to do with winning and authority and compensation and consolation. And Page Rank, I guess. And love.

What time it it…where was I? Oh yeah – life. I gotta get back to getting my ‘pooter fixed. Later. (Maybe…my life seems to be taking over my blog)

Joel November 23, 2003 at 1:50 am

bmo: it helps if you keep up the habit offline as well. I write a great deal that never sees the blog. Writing can be a meditation if you approach it with the attitude that you do the thing for the sake of the thing itself and not in the hope that it is going to make you rich and famous or get you laid.

I’m with you on the women bloggers. I know the exceptions among the men and I frequent their blogs. But here I feel more comfortable and at home than in many other places. There are women who can get pretty pointless, too, but Yule is not one of them.

Joel November 23, 2003 at 1:58 am

Another thought: blogging is a life. It is performed by living, breathing people. But I am disturbed by perpetual punditeering, the people who only read the newspaper and report their views on what is happening. They are right there, on top of the news everyday. And you wonder what else they have about them?

I like to think awhile before I talk about news items. I find that when I react to the news the articles I write in consequence do not feel alive. When I speak about an article or a book that I have thought about, more spirit enters the writing.

Because of the speed of the medium, I think we sometimes fall into the mistaken belief that we must rush our thinking.

One thing that I notice is that when people talk about their real life, they get fewer comments. It’s the stuff that’s most removed from them, the opinions that just get vented for the sake of venting them that often get the most comments. This is like the story of the college class that trained a professor to sit only on the left side of the room by a little operant conditioning. After a while, you’ll get less life and more punditry because that is what you reward.

I fight all the time to not be a black box.

Yule Heibel November 26, 2003 at 11:44 pm

Joel, I completely agree with you regarding the time factor. I don’t like being pulled into instant responses, either, and prefer to have time to think about something — or just go off and do something else, even! A blog shouldn’t be a yoke, I guess…

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