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Bloggers' Unfulfilled Mission

Amateur bloggers spend too much time blogging about domestic or personal trivia. That is what Facebook and Twitter are for. Many amateur bloggers might have an interest in philosophical or political issues but think that the world has already heard enough squabbling. Or amateur bloggers consider themselves unqualified. How can a three-paragraph-long post compete with an entire book written by a professional who has devoted years to his job?

But this humility overlooks the advantages that the amateur has: he should never underestimate the group-think that most professionals fall into. The amateur is not constrained by ratings pressure, publication deadlines, legal worries, corporate policy, availability of grants, etc. Nor must the amateur start off with the same premises as professional pundits. After all, it's what doesn't get discussed that matters most. Many topics that might seem boring are not intrinsically boring; rather, their discussion was made boring by starting off with the same assumptions as everybody else. 

The same is true of restricting yourself to the Breaking News syndrome of the Media. Professionals in the media will never discuss anything with historical perspective; even if they did, the amateur blogger need not choose the same perspective.

There is a time-honored passage from the opening paragraph of the chapter on Alexander the Great, in Plutarch's Lives, that pertains to the choices an amateur blogger can make. Plutarch chose to write article length comparisons between famous personages, rather than entire books on each one:
It must be borne in mind that my design has been not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face, in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men, in my portrayal of their lives.
So too can the well-chosen illustrations of a mere amateur add more to a discussion than another shelf of learned lumber from academics or think tank scholars. By 'illustrations' I mean well-chosen anecdotes, analogies, and uncommon historical perspectives that connect events and issues -- a creative condensation, a thought-painting. This benefits the reader more than a 600-page compendium of dry and disconnected facts. Certainly there are temptations and errors in pictorial thinking, but most of this would be averted if the reader didn't confuse perspective with proof.


Anonymous said…
It is part of the territory that walking the edge between the rational/irrational, knowable/unknowable, scientific/intuitive, etc. is fraught with risk (part of which is communicating effectively) and has a higher degree of eliciting very uncomfortable feelings in the recipient than taking the more solid high road.
Blogging for the world to see is an interesting animal. Blogging about the risky business of life is especially interesting. If, within one's personal relationships (I mean in the real world) one walks this line, all hell tends to break loose. But when blogging on line about the risky business of life, especially when one can do it anonymously, well, I guess that's the best of both worlds, isn't it? A great way to speak one's mind yet not offer much of a target to anyone who might become upset.
There are the specialists in this world. Those people who have tremendous focus and concentration and dedication to pursue just one avenue of learning, one specialty, but then, sometimes they can't see the forest for the trees...(i.e. the group think that you mentioned.) But what they offer as a result of that intense focus is amazing.
Then there is the "amateur" as you call it, but I would like to call this person a jack of all trades, one who knows a little about a lot, who's interested in making life and living more seamless, more relevant to man's everyday struggles.
The truth of the matter is that each side is just as human as the other. Without the other half, neither half alone would be able to stand.
I like your quote. It helped me remember that each one of us has a story to tell and it is uniquely our own and it is one of a kind. And very very real.
Yes, it would have worked to use the word 'non-specialist' instead of amateur. By amateur, I really meant independent of commercial or bureaucratic pressures.

I think there are indeed advantages to blogging anonymously. But if I were a reader being charged to read the blog, I probably wouldn't accept anonymity on the blogger's part.
Anonymous said…
I may have missed your point again but this is what comes to mind....isn't it interesting how knowing more about the blogger's life effects the meaning we give to their message?
Thanks for the feedback: it allows me to edit the post to clarify my meaning. Actually I don't think that bloggers should try to drag complex issues back into their own personal biographies for the mere sake of personalizing or psychologizing it. Essentially that would be an advertisement for subjectivism.

Rather, using personal anecdotes (and other devices) can help to condense a complex issue into manageable picture.
Anonymous said…
This isn't on topic at all, but I wanted to recommend the works of V.S. Naipaul to you. Not so much for his subjects, but for his writing style. At one point in time I think I had read everything published by him and had to resort to the dictionary on one occasion only, and that was to look up the meaning of a disease that afflicted one of his characters. His ability to convey complex thoughts using everyday words is pretty amazing.

Tom in Orlando
Tom,our little state university library actually has quite a few of Naipaul's books. I'll give them a look.
Anonymous said…
stumbled upon your blog from yet another... read thru it from the start... enjoy your writing style and the "words from your gut"... you are a bit full of yourself though but I will keep reading for the enjoyment.
Anonymous said…
that's just his writing persona, Boonie's as lovable as a puppy dog in real life.
Al Bossence said…
interesting post

Anonymous said…
Let me keep it simple, boonie you can cram a thousand pounds of shit into a sandwich Baggie , do you ever read your own stuff ?