I’ll be seeing me

Few of the visitors to this site on any given day leave comments or any other signs of appreciation or disagreement, or of attention at all, but, when I examine the trail of “views” they leave behind, I like to imagine that I have found intellectual comrades of an hour. When I notice that someone (or apparently someone – the simple site stats also pick up “robots”) has lit upon a post or series of posts that, like the great majority of my posts, may have received little or no attention ever made known to me, either when posted or at any time since, I may be inspired to take another look, often discovering obvious flaws in style, grammar or punctuation, or concept. From time to time, I will find little but embarrassment under whatever title, so will trash or de-publish the post with little regret before continuing on my trek through my past, attempting to make improvements as I go.

I am not in fact fully confident that I can or even should continue this blogging project or remnant or transformation of a blogging project, either continue this re-reading and refining or continue the larger project at all, but, if I do manage to do so, I may eventually end up with a body of work that, if nothing else, will at least in its most viewed and re-viewed reductions qualify as polished – as conforming, if never perfectly, then unusually adequately, because adequated and re-adequated, to a developed authorial intention.

2014-11-06_site_stats I think few writers have had either opportunity or motivation to work on their work in this way. Some, those born into ease, security, and comfort, or who have found such a happy state through hard work or luck, may write and study without continual interruption and distraction. Some are able to submit their work to skilled editors or to circles of friends and colleagues. Some will have been forced closer to perfection, or at least into enviable mastery of composition, in confrontation with the limits of available technologies, or with publishing deadlines, or with starkly narrowed circumstances: A political prisoner scrawling a treatise on bits of paper collected in secret will presumably have worked multiple drafts internally, phrase by phrase or word by word as chiseled into the mind, before setting anything down. For almost all writers, especially prior to the age of word-processing but even during it, continually revising old work, especially old published work, has simply been impractical. The difference between what I find myself doing, or having been attempting, and what, as far as I know, most or all those others have been able or seen fit to do, would not necessarily be between a more and less polished writing, but between, for them, a polish administered intensively, nearer to a primary rendering in whatever medium, and, for me, a proofing conducted in some ways haphazardly, but extensively, allowing the distillation through repeated re-considerations of thoughts or of ways of expressing them if not exactly at leisure, at least in the luxury of their obscurity.

I wonder if, as the whole of this virtual object turns increasingly on itself, as it dies by pixels before my eyes which are its eyes reflecting their own reflection, it must become what it points to: an opposite of the “web-log,” a different kind of marking of time executed across an ever more static content, the record of a personal history only just barely still unfolding, to be viewed like the history of the world in the philosophy of the history of the world: as already completed in principle.

8 comments on “I’ll be seeing me

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  1. In spite of whatever difference exists between us, I’d like to think I’ve made my respect and admiration for you abundantly clear. It may be little consolation to you, but I, at least, know your worth. You’re a deeply thoughtful, erudite scholar and your practice of the writer’s craft is exemplary. I’ve told you before that you ought to write a book. To the extent that your weblog is a projection of your fundamental self, you exemplify the virtues of profundity and sophrosyne–virtues of a high rank. That you have, thus far, failed to acquire the wider audience which your writing deserves may be put down to vicissitude.

    I, for one, would be very disappointed if you were to lose heart and discontinue or scale back the writing you submit to this website. The writing you do which appears here, the fruit of your reading and contemplation, is the real work of your life–infinitely more important than whatever it is you “do for a living”. And that is so regardless of whether you have any readers or not. The life of philosophic contemplation, which you exhibit at an enviably high level, is its own reward and may be the highest kind of life for a man–even when carried on in a largely solitary vein.

    Again, it may be slight consolation for you, but I intend to read your writing and comment on it as thoughtfully as my middling intellect will allow. Thank you for taking the time to write your careful, insightful and interesting pieces. Your website adds something to my intellectual life which I highly value, not least your noble example of intelligence and moderation.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I won’t draw further attention to your compliments except to note that I do not think of myself as a scholar.

      Otherwise, though some feelings about my personal situation clearly spilled over into the post, I was as interested in noting changes in my approach to this site and a movement away from a “blog” concept –  not that an on-line journal or other venue or sub-venue for new work and discussion wouldn’t have a place in some ideal design. You mention the possibility of writing a book: I think of this site as already having developed into the equivalent of several books in hypertext format, perhaps eventually to be shaped or anthologized into one or more book-length collections – possibly to some extent re-worked with such a format in mind – downloadable or printout-able as such. I wouldn’t necessarily expect very many people to avail themselves of the new options, but creating them might be a worthwhile experiment.

      For now, If I’m not mistaken, the fact that the posts at this blog are already “out there/here” – or published in this format – makes them even less interesting for a book publisher than this kind of writing would be anyway, and I would need much more room in my life than I currently have or imagine soon having to consider an entirely new major writing project, or even to hope to finish some smaller writing and development/design projects that I have already started. I can’t help but regret that things have reached such a point for me, but readers of this blog or site or whatever it is will be among the first to know if my circumstances change.

  2. I’m sentinent! I think. But I don’t know if I show up on your server stats the ordinary way because I read your blog through an RSS reader. I’ve more than once wanted to express my appreciation, but I rarely do for most of the writers I read. If I comment outside of OT, I feel it needs to be something substantial, but I don’t know that I have much that is substantial to say.

    • Thanks for signifying! On the other hand, when you read the quasi-blog via RSS, you miss out on extremely important refinements of the sort discussed in the post: in this case my removal of the word “sentience” from the first line and its replacement by a reference to “attention.”

      Maybe I shouldn’t have made such a change at all, and especially on a post published in the “notes” format, or maybe I should restrict myself to “blogger’s revisions,” with the old text struck through. I’m still developing rules for handling “notes” as opposed to “real posts,” and won’t promise to have settled the matter anytime soon. Anyway, I apologize for mucking up your first line, but your thought also points to some related problems of site management ca. 2014. In ancient times five years ago, commenting at blogs seemed still to be a way to participate in a growing community, or community of communities. Nowadays, with so many once popular blogs (and the connections between them) falling into disrepair, and with so many alternatives available for informal sharing of thoughts and sentiments, the set of incentives for leaving a comment seems to have narrowed.

      Incidentally, I include OT very much in that syndrome. I consider it a leading offender or victim, in fact – probably unsalvageable short of a revolution or hostile takeover. I’ve written via the OT contact form on numerous problems at the site, and also directly contacted one OT editor – with, typically, no reply either time. For a concrete example of disrepair, inattention, and lost connections – which would embarrass someone if there was someone there capable of embarrassment – go to the “Blogroll” page: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blogroll. You’ll find several “internal blogs” featuring authors who no longer post at OT or who post very rarely, followed by a piece of dysfunctional shortcode that probably used to produce a list of other blogs, representing a circle of intercommunicating, mutually encouraging bloggers and blog-communities. No doubt, if the shortcode problem was handled, it would reveal a list full of disappeared and zombie blogs, which is a common problem even at sites whose bloglords are still posting and otherwise involved (including by making money). At this site, I may someday restore a blogroll or some other networking page or widget or whatever, but it hardly seems worth the bother to me either.

      • with so many once popular blogs (and the connections between them) falling into disrepair, and with so many alternatives available for informal sharing of thoughts and sentiments, the set of incentives for leaving a comment seems to have narrowed.

        I would blame the alternatives more than the connections between blogs. Recode was the latest to just announce that they were getting rid of comments on their site. They cited as the main reason the fact that conversations about their pieces were happening on Twitter or Facebook rather than on the site itself. I think it’s saying something that a site that already had a sun investment in its commenting infrastructure just decided to do away with it.

        • It’s a bad synergy or vicious circle  – and also a winnowing process, though Recode is a “real” tech-journalism site, not a blog or “community” site.

          I’m not against the narrowing – or clarification – of incentives. I’m just observing them and speculating about forms of adaptation. For communication meant to be completely ephemeral, it doesn’t make much difference whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or singing in the shower. For discussion potentially worth re-considering and expanding upon, or worth being referenced later, even years later – for writing rather than chatting, you might say – I’d never trust Twitter, Facebook, or any other third party.

          • Is the less ephemeral content a need that you see blogs filling?

            I was quite impressed with myself for having remembered a Grant McCracken post from 2007 for the last thing I wrote, but blogging does seem to be more attuned to “here’s what happened this week” rather than a thing that gets built and a foundation is apparent. If someone wrote something great two weeks ago for a blog, it’s a distant memory in everyone’s mind, perhaps even in the writer’s.

            I do think it would be *nice* if we could solve this problem. Academia seems to have a system that sort of works. More recent papers are what people pay the most attention to, but older papers are still very much available and used. Despite having content that is easier to search, blogs don’t seem to have this attribute.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "I’ll be seeing me"
  1. […] I already noted in an exchange here with “Ordinary Times” contributor Vikram Bath, a “blogroll” used to represent a circle or network of intercommunicating, mutually […]

  2. […] In a thoughtful comment on web site concepts, Vikram Bath asks whether I see blogs, as opposed to social media, filling a need for “less ephemeral content.” The short answer would be affirmative with qualifications, while the longer answer would be my justification, as I began to explain in prior discussion, for moving away, if gradually, from an overarching blog or “web-log” concept toward a “site” concept. […]

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