Ephemera, 9/18/23

Have been “blog silent” the last couple of weeks as I went through a rather hideous cold (which seems a very weak label for such a terrible experience). Not COVID-19, according to the tests, but something in that wheelhouse. On the whole, just very unpleasant. But I will try to resume posting here with at least some regularity.

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I need to decide what to do with these “Ephemera” posts, or whether to continue them at all. The idea was along the lines of “here’s what I might tweet if I tweeted, if Twitter still existed in any meaningful way,” but on the whole I don’t find them particularly useful (for myself, and certainly not for others). For one thing, I’m afraid I fall right into the trap of “commenting” on things that don’t particularly need any further comment.

That last sentence basically describes the Internet, and one thing I never wanted this blog to be was a place for “takes.” But it’s hard to get out of that mindset when you’re producing online content, isn’t it?

This morning, as I cleaned through my inbox and RSS feeds (and maybe this is just a result of the contemplation forced by spending ten or so days feeling like crap), I found myself once again overwhelmed and irritated by all the writers making up things to get mad about. It’s difficult to find needles of insight buried in haystacks of things like, “Stop writing about the color blue, already! Quit oppressing all the other colors!” (Seriously, though, do you know how many books have been written about the color blue?)

Of course, just writing the above paragraph is the perfect example of what I’m complaining about. You see how easily I fall into this trap. I’m pure Gen X, and I cut my teeth blogging in the mid-aughts, and it’s hard for me to resist a snarky take. Snark is what happens when you pretend to take lightly, but are actually taking too seriously, something that shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.

What happens when we actually take lightly those things that should not be taken seriously, which is almost everything? Well, I’m guessing — a more peaceful life? As Sam Bush writes at Mockingbird, while explaining how the greatest things in life, including Christian theology, are pointless: “The last time I looked, none of the fruits of the spirit were a monthly training regime. But in light of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, the joys of life can actually be enjoyed. The game has already been won — the stakes of our daily lives are much lower than we think.” (bold added)

Certainly the stakes of this blog, this little conversation with myself, are quite low indeed, and so I will focus on the things that I find personally interesting and useful, like my read-through of Ellul’s Presence in the Modern World, which I hope to resume soon. And less on the snark.

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Still, I think one of the most useful roles any blog can play is as a clearinghouse of links of particular interest to that particular blogger. For example, here’s a very interesting essay on James Baldwin’s Another Country and how it demonstrates the potential value of telling over showing (contra lots of generic writing advice):

We’re coy, these days, in fiction, inculcated as we are in Show, Don’t Tell. Every writer shows and tells, yet as a teacher of writing, I understand how that maxim came about when I see early writing by students that is all information, no magic.

But I also think that, as writers, we’re fearful – of being sentimental; of being obvious; of our writing being viewed, if we state an idea simply, as simplistic.

There is nothing simplistic about Baldwin’s straight-forward simplicity. Everything in Baldwin is complex.

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