Confronting Again the Question Why Do I Blog
Looking at the calendar, I see that yet again I’ve gone more than a week without posting something I’ve written to the blog something. I’ve posted several commonplace quotations, and I see those as solid contributions to the blog as I’ve envisioned it. But I still struggle to write items for anything approaching public consumption. So I’m pushed yet again to consider the question why I’m attempting this project.
But I’m facing the question now as much because of what I’m reading as because of what I’m not writing. I’ve recently fallen into a Hannah Arendt hole – reading texts she wrote, texts written about her, and letters written to her. There’s so much in all of this that is well worth thinking about, especially in the world we’re living in now. I hope that someday the rather convoluted collection of thoughts about her work bouncing around in my mind will fall into something resembling a structured understanding, but my encounters with her thus far yield anything but that. While it’s difficult for me to focus on one thread in the tangled web, her essay “On Humanity in Dark Times: thoughts about Lessing” pushes me now not only to confront the question at hand but also to step outside my cognitive solitude and actually write something.
For the world is not humane just because it is made by human beings, and it does not become humane just because the human voice sounds in it, but only when it has become the object of discourse. However much we are affected by the things of teh world, however deeply they may stir and stimulate us, they become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows. Whatever cannot become the object of discourse – the truly sublime, the truly horrible or the uncanny – may find a human voice through which to sound into the world, but it is not exactly human. We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human“ (Men in Dark Times, pp. 24f).
Arendt insisted that the deterioration and possible demise of a public world threatened our humanity, and she claimed an obligation to participate in the discourse that created and maintained such a public world. She was one of many who criticized Heidegger for his early flirtation with Nazism; but she was just as critical of what she saw as his withdrawal from the public world into philosophical solitude. I don’t pretend to anything approaching the insights Arendt brought into the world, but I can do better than I’m doing.
One of the real privileges of my retired life is the freedom to spend a large amount of time reading. Writing about this reading and the thoughts it generates helps me to see more clearly what I’m thinking. After years (even decades!) of failed attempts, I’ve managed over the last several years to maintain a regular habit of private journaling. And that writing has indeed helped me to think my own thoughts. But I need to continue attempting to write things out into the public world – even into a public as small as the audience of this blog reflects.
A next step will be to write much more carefully and even to edit (and re-edit) before posting – and, in fact, I’m in the midst of some of that. Perhaps someday there will be evidence of that here. Perhaps someday I’ll be more human.