I am new to this blogging thing and so far it has been an enlivening experience but also troubling in certain ways. I have always had thoughts run through my mind during the course of the day. Generally, I think they are pretty interesting and I might write them down or I might not. But with the vessel of a blog, as a quasi-formal display of these thoughts, I find myself looking for things to say. This is not all bad in that I think it is good to be curious or inquisitive. But it also has its negative side. I found myself looking for something that can help me to say what it was I wanted to say in the first place. Am I not so much inquisitive, but looking for an occasion to make a statement?
In many ways this is not unlike the world of academia that I am slowly immersing myself in as a vocation. On one hand I have those projects, questions and interests that got me into this in the first place. On the other hand I have the necessity of publishing or teaching. Sometimes these come together in a magical moment where I can try to publish something I am genuinely curious about and passionate about. In other moments I am looking for an occasion, a topic that might help me to accomplish a goal of adding to the cv or tenure requirements. As one senior faculty reminded me, “sometimes it is about paying the bills.” Of course, this is the reality of any field. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be employed in a job we love will not love EVERY aspect of it.
Through the mental process of blogging, wondering, asking questions, thinking about what to share and what to keep to myself I find myself resisting the temptation to objectify those stories that interest me. On the one hand I have an interest in this story or happening, but to what end am I using it? Have these stories become occasions from which to position ourselves or our ideas? Are we really listening? Do we really want to know? IS the problem their to be solved or is the problem establishing something about us that we wish to preserve?
What has brought this to mind for me is how this summer has seemingly unleashed a torrent of occasions and words but no dialogue, no conversation. The Gates/Crowley incident became simply an occasion to talk about racial profiling, the health care reform debate is an occasion to talk about socialism. Facebook comments light up on these occasions with minds made up before we even begin. All of these moments are important and can serve to help us reflect on wider issues of poverty, health care, racism, etc. but shouldn’t it be more than the “hello” of the conversation? Shouldn’t we have the courage to enter into the complications of the particular realities of this occasion?
At its best academic scholarship does this. At it best blogging has helped to foster the questions and observations I have during the course of the day. But it has also raised a significant temptation for all of us to simply use the world as fodder for our own declarations. We consume news stories in order to produce something we imagine is necessary for the world or important to resist, but we do not always reflect on these stories, on these people. Blogging has been a good exercise for me thus far but it has also reminded me how we must exercise discipline in our viewing.