MARCH 27, 2002: So many blogs out there. Yet I, old school, only post when I have something to talk about besides myself. Except in this piece, which is about as "me" as edroso.com gets.
WHY THIS IS NOT A WEBLOG
My life is mostly hermitage these days, but I did receive a few calls after the September 11 thing from old friends asking after my welfare. We established that I was alive, then came the pause, then the inevitable: How're you doing?
It's still a good question. But day-to-day, you know, I don't think about that. There are things that go well and less well; good days and bad days; signs of decay and of growth. But, how'm I doing? I haven't a clue.
I don't sum myself up as readily as I used to. As a young man I was constantly summing myself up: on birthdays, on New Year's Days, on full moons or on drugs, I would spring out of my own skin and try to get my head around the whole of my life to that date. And I would write grand journal entries in high literary style, stating for the record what I imagined I had been, was, and expected to be.
Now the question How're you doing? sort of throws me. You might as well be asking about an old aunt I hadn't visited in years.
With age, you see, a lot of things have become less important to me, including myself. This is called perspective. The world, I have learned, is big enough to survive without me. One may initially rage at this gross injustice, but in time, if one is sane, one learns to live with it.
I picked up Camus' Caligula the other day and was floored by it. "If I'd had the moon, if love were enough, all might have been different. But where could I quench this thirst?... The impossible! I've searched for it at the confines of the world, in the secret places of my heart..." It's amazing to me that Camus was so young when he wrote this. His Caligula sounds -- well, like a man my age. What the mad Emperor discovers is what we all discover in time: For all our ambition we are felled, then obliterated, by the endless river of time.
Everyone responds to this revelation in his own way. Caligula tried to beat this game by usurping the place of life itself, becoming the capricious, destructive force he imagined it to be. Most of us lack the stature for this sort of thing, and assert ourselves in milder ways.
Yet even these confuse me sometimes. I see the vast network of weblogs in operation, and marvel that so many people think their own lives worth memorializing on a day-to-day basis. Each inventory of meals consumed, job interviews, and sweaty couplings gets the same play as a lost poetry fragment by Sappho. But in whose heart do these linger, other than the blogger's own?
Also witness the puffery (self-administered and otherwise) exhibited by the various "war bloggers." These are mostly right-wing operatives who every day spew great clouds of Bush Administration rah-rah (much of it devoted calling Noam Chomsky et alia some variant of "poo-poo head"), heavily scented with plugs for one another's sites and chest-pounding assertions that war blogs have saved America from being overrun by antiwar demonstrators. Therein politics is ostensibly the raison d'etre, but everything at these blogs ultimately devolves into a pissing contest: What a traitor this guy is! I get more hits than you, you're just jealous! Boy, that Rachael Klein is a dish!
In other words, it is ego in its purest form. The 70s were famously called the "Me" decade, and both the 80s and 90s have been lacerated by their non-admirers for encouraging people to be too full of themselves. But the most genuinely self-regarding place and time in human history -- more than Rome in the golden age, or Hollywood whenever -- is the weblog environment at this very moment.
This begs the question: why write at all? You may be forgiven for mistaking my fatalism (if that's what it is; I'm not sure) for despair. My ego may not be so important, but it exists, like my cats and my apartment and guitars and left toe. I'm not eager to part with any of these, though I acknowledge that this does not make them immortal, or of deathless interest to others.
That leaves us with what I do find worth putting up at edroso.com: essays, stories, songs, satires -- to use the old discredited name for them, works of art. But why would these be worth the effort, when breakfasting, blowjobbing, and bombardiering blogs are not?
I'm not sure. It could be that my ego is too smart for its own good, and uses the mantle of art as a disguise to bamboozle my fine sentiments and rush past them into the world.
Or it could be the reason why Faulkner and Hemingway published novels instead of journals. (Can you imagine a weblog by Faulkner? "Hell damn I'm drunk. There is much nrshmnt in a acree of crn. Leaves on the matin, there nigh. Fuckin rof leaks.")
Maybe art makes it easier to share the burden of living. If I tell you that I'm lonely, your mind works (or doesn't) to correlate your experience imperfectly with mine. If we listen to Hank Williams together, though, we can get to the same place quickly and efficiently.
See, there aren't too many things I'm good at, but I'm pretty good with words. Were I as good at carpentry, I'd want to make you a bureau. Of course I'd like to be paid and praised for it, but I could get pay and praise more easily in other ways. (And I have.) Mainly I'd want you to have the bureau -- to appreciate its beauty, to put your socks and shirts in it, to make use of it.
To put it another way, I would like, quietly, to be part of your life. To state the obvious, I'm not Caligula, though I have from time to time done a pretty fair impersonation of him.
At bottom, I offer these works as one might offer a handkerchief to a friend whose nose is running. That the handkerchief is monogrammed, and is of material superior to that of the Kleenexes widely available, does not make the gift any less useful, or, I hope, appreciated.
But you tell me. The lines are open at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like, I'd be happy to tell you what I had for breakfast. But I would prefer -- and I'd like to think you would prefer -- that I tell you some stories. Or point out some flaw in the reasoning of our official reasoners. Or show you something else, quite outside both our selves, that is well worth observing.
Anything to get away from that infernal and eternal "I."