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Are Blogs Part of the Solution or the Problem?

Call it a blessing or a curse as you wish, but it is certainly true that pontificating on the internet (even anonymously!) makes you feel obligated to practice what you preach. (How grim!)

For instance, I was extolling the general value of the Rockhound Principle recently. The perfect place to apply this principle is in the reading of books. Where else can you benefit more from infinite patience with "detritus?"  Instead of feeling disgusted, you can channel this into delight when you finally do find something precious. You can also work to ensure that the precious nuggets you find stay found, by actively assimilating them into your life.

Recall that I was reading "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco. All in all, I don't recommend it. Still, there were a few precious nuggets on the way through the book. The leading character was a monk trying to solve some murders in a monastery in the early 1300s. One body was found in a vat filled with the blood of recently slaughtered pigs. When his sidekick concluded that the dead monk had drowned in the vat, the main character said, 'But have you ever seen the face of a drowned man. This isn't it.'

Perhaps the visual image of that made an impression on me -- an impression that stuck. It was a happy coincidence that I walked into a coffee shop in the Zion area, just after reading this. Reading, by itself, can be so tedious and dry. But if it is combined with something in the arena of active experience, the two become dance partners. 

National parks tend to attract a certain cultural stereotype, and there were plenty of them in the coffee shop. Most people were from the Big City. They imagined themselves to be hip, cool, and sophisticated. They were lost in their own little gadget worlds in the coffee shop. They seemed so engrossed in what they were looking at. Like it was so important!

In fact it was probably routine weather reports, emails, and cute photos of somebody's cat. Surely this amazing look of concentration and self-importance was the 'face of a drowning man' -- drowning in absolute trivia.

I don't mean to beat up on gadgets as the culprits in a busy lifestyle of drowning in trivia: television perfected this 50 years ago. (Watch the movie, "Network", if you haven't.) Going further back than that, writers in the 1800s ridiculed the daily habit of newspaper reading.

By another piece of fortuitous rockhounding I stumbled across a quote [*] from Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher/theologian of the first half of the 1800s:
On the whole the evil in the daily press consists in its being calculated to make, if possible, the passing moment a thousand or ten thousand times more inflated and important than it really is. But all moral elevation consists first and foremost in being weaned from the momentary.
That is a thought that a fellow can take off to the mountains and contemplate for awhile.

Gnarly details in the foreground of daily life can sometimes lead to the nebular development of more general thoughts.

And where does that leave us, sinful bloggers that we are? Do we really take advantage of the fresh perspectives that travel can sometimes foster, or do we settle for conventionality, mere description, and phony pragmatism?  We need to see concrete experiences and visual stimulation as a first step, and then move on to "What does it mean?"  Timeless meaning.

[*] from Malcolm Muggeridge, "Third Testament."


Jim and Gayle said…
Now while I'm trying to assimilate what you wrote, I must tell you I got a record number of comments on my post about finding a home for the Zion cat. So what does that mean?
It means that RV culture and its readers have fallen into a mental easy-chair, and need to have their butts kicked in order to aim at something harder.
John V said…
We need to get you back out on the road and into the wilderness. The domesticated lifestyle is messing with you.
Where did you get the idea that I'm domesticated? I'm locked into a grim social-Darwinist struggle for survival with 70-year-old cyclists, and I'm losing!
XXXXX said…
Can you give me one example of "timeless meaning?"
Perhaps "timeless meaning" is a bad choice of wording. I meant ideas and principles that would constitute the fundamental building blocks of our mental lives, regardless of the microsecond or millennium they were plopped down in.
XXXXX said…
I like your quote from Kierkegaard and I focus on his use of the word "momentary."
You mentioned several things that distract us and perhaps we even seek these distractions at some level. You seem to imply that "ideas" and "principles" are what would be in the "moment" K speaks of. I would disagree with that.
I think it would be more sensations, intuitions, feelings. Not concepts or constructs that our minds invent.
Something along the line of "reading between the lines" to discover what an author is seeking to convey in spite of the limitations of words. All that which makes a great novel truly great. Something of what an artist seeks to portray in his paintings. Again, something beyond words. A feeling, intuition, etc. , something words or concepts cannot do justice to. Again, not the postcard but all that lies around, beyond, and within.
You don't even have to travel to find it.
BTW, I see the row of trees ascending on the second hill from the left. This is the same one you posted awhile back (but closer.) The geometric shape of the hills are a nice contrast to the twisted tree. Inspires some interesting metaphors.
Great comment, once again. As usual, it would take me a whole essay to respond to it, and I'm too pooped.
John V said…
A snowbird Lord of the Flies...nice!
Anonymous said…
I thought it was a pretty good story, well written. Z, the cat, comes to Jim's attention. He empathizes with the cats situation and seeks to improve it, there by showing he's a caring human being. A workable solution is found. A villain interferes, but is thwarted by the good guys. Z lives happily ever after.

Yes, I like cats. And a good story. And it's a bit of the pot calling the kettle black when Boonie has 39 posts about dogs, including one about butterfly kisses!
Oh dear, after reading your comment, and rereading Jim&Gayle's comment, I now see that people thought I was criticizing an individual or their blog. Not so. I was talking about a general syndrome. Many other people have complained about blogs and social media sites ( Facebook, Twitter) offering nothing but small talk and daily trivialities, the stereotypical example being cute pictures of their cats.

At any rate, you did me a favor by bringing this to my attention. I've got some fence-mending to do.
Anonymous said…
I suppose the real question is why do you blog, and why do we read the entries? I think we are all "rockhounding", and some times there is a lot of overburden to move before a "shiny" appears. Please understand I'm not knocking cat or dog stories. Often it is the trivial that draws our attention to a facet of life that we have overlooked for a while.

As to the people in the coffee shop, stereotypes are often a way of minimizing others value. What is probably truer is that these people are living lives of "quiet desperation". They have come to some of the most beautiful places available, and yet seek solitude with their electronics, nothing says "leave me alone" better than a laptop in a coffee shop! We all carry a heavy burden of history, fears, trauma and continuing drama. The trick is to find ways to deal with it that we can live with. One of yours is vigorous physical exercise, which beats the hell out of drugs or booze, in my opinion!

Moral elevation. I find the concept horrific. Aimed inward, it means I'm lacking, substandard. Aimed outward, I'm better than you. Both stances are abusive. We've got enough to deal with in day to day life without putting such an imaginary load onto ourselves. Maybe better phrasing would be a "quest for inner peace", if you can achieve that, everything else will follow.

Value of Blogs. I find blogs quite retro, in the days of 2400 baud dial up, pre-internet, there were BBS services with discussion forums. A blog is a more personally focused version of this with a much wider audience, and the ability to add pictures and links. Some I read and never return to, others, such as this one, I follow and make the effort to comment on. Which brings me to.......

It's very hard to convey tone, body language, or facial expressions in a text format. The comments above are observations, not criticisms of the post or comments.
Roger, thanks for a well thought-out comment. I don't want to look like I need to get the final word in. Let's hope the readers enjoyed this comment.