Thursday, April 21, 2011

Then I Went Down Into The Basement Where My Friend, The Maniac, Busies Himself With His Electronic Graffiti

J.E.H. Smith:

But here is the thought that makes death formidable again: it is the moment after which I will never post to my blog again, after which I will never write another Facebook status update, I will never again tweet. My soul cries out: “But I can’t live without doing these things!” And death answers back: “No. But you can die.”

This is to say that my life is wrapped up with an activity from which I will have to leave off at death. But it is also the activity, I am increasingly coming to think, of actively constructing my self, and this activity, when it leaves off in death, will leave an accurate and vivid trace of a life. My online activity is, as I already put it, both mask and gravestone at once.

This may not be an entirely different experience than the one Robert Burton had when he brought out the fourth and fifth and sixth editions of The Anatomy of Melancholy. But the immediacy of blogging, and its lack of finality, make it much more like life itself than a book ever could be, with the backlogged publishers who promise it and the slow-churning presses that produce it. There is no publisher to blame if my blog is not sufficiently far along in its perfection at the moment of my death, no editorial wrangling or grinding production process. There is only me, and what I hope might be a mirror of me, diffused then through the Web of my culture by means I don’t understand: a mirror of me mirroring the world by sitting in a chair and looking at a screen and, every now and again, out the window.

Blogging as self-creation rather than the more typical sense of self-expression; that's a pretty cool way to think about it. I've said before that I feel much more complete as a person since I started systematically writing my thoughts down like this. My brain feels more alive, my ideas feel more substantial. At times when kismet arranges for an abundance of stress and work to align with a paucity of time and inspiration for writing, as was the case earlier this week, I can feel seriously low and empty (as the angelic Shanna, who graciously takes on the thankless task of trying to cheer me up, can attest). This has done more to shape and sculpt different aspects of my personality than anything I've done in my adult life, I think. It's what mainly provides a sense of dynamism and prevents me from feeling stagnant. I wonder what kind of person I'd be if I had started doing this as a teenager?

My mom was trying to give me helpful advice about fleshing out my résumé the other day, telling me to add in anything extracurricular that might be interesting. "What about writing? Do you do any? You know, so-and-so always said you had real talent..."

No, I said, I don't do any writing. There's only a few people who know that about me, and I have incriminating photos of all of them to ensure their silence. This is one of the absolute most important activities in my life, and I prefer to keep it a secret and do it just for fun. Maybe that's what defines me as a hermit more than anything.

2 comments:

Shanna said...

If I'm so angelic, how come you have incriminating photos of me?

The Vile Scribbler said...

They make me feel heavenly! :P