Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not Back to Blogging

A few interjections aside, I have been away from this blog for seven weeks in America. I could have blogged but I didn't and, now back in London, I am finding it almost impossible to blog on. This appears to be because I don't know what to blog about, and, more to the point, I don't know what I was blogging about. Well, obviously, I was just posting chance thoughts and observations. There is a sentimental and romantic view that such improvisations are, somehow, more true to oneself than more considered creations. But, in truth, in blogging, as in painting or poetry, improvisation is seldom what it seems. It is more a product of the environment than the self (I know that thought needs unpacking, but I think I can leave that to you). In blogging the environment is a combination of the information to be derived from stats and from commenters. I could, over time, tell myself I was getting better at blogging, but, in fact, I was simply adapting to this environment, usually unconsciously. 'Better at blogging' meant, therefore, creating a self to meet the selves that I met online. Looking back beyond the US hiatus, this blog self looks entirely alien. (This could be because of the intense seriousness and, yes, genius of some of the people I encountered in the States and, indeed, British life, especially political life, looks extremely grey and shrunken to me now. There's something wrong with us, but I am not in a mood to blog about that.) Worse, that blog self looks rather unpleasant if not completely stupid. I am, therefore, uncertain how to proceed, though I do know that I don't want to be unpleasant and stupid. And that, for the moment, is all I have to say about that.


  1. Bryan, you're the very well read, well educated, intellectual version of Kev returning from Benidorm, hacked off with his mongrel homeland, I return from Germany every month and have those thoughts. Put Fidelio on the CD player, don't read the papers, Think of those Gerhard Richter colour charts and go sleepy's, blogging's just a sometimes amusing interlude, nothing more.

  2. Ah, Bryan, wearing his heart on his sleeve. One detects the blues of coming home - a spot of psychological jetlag. Or call it a straightforward psychological reaction to the morning after the party. A bad hangover after the return from a vibrant environment to the staid humdrum of the UK.

    I feel for you.

    My own opposition to blogging and my various reviews of fellow bloggers has made me few friends. But then, I find it impossible to fawn, or jostle for the privilege of creating a self to meet the selves that I met online

    As I have previously suggested on this site , we have long reached a point where daily annotations written on the digits of blogs are not just glut, they are horribly tedious. The hobby of overactive minds, rather than of true vocations. Debarred from being intellectually honest we are actually threatening the survival of intelligent culture. Intellectual honesty is collapsing under the weight of its own unreason. I have no doubt of it. Our personas live in a world gone virtual, a world which can only be judged by the technology that produced it and in which human civilization has created the machinery for its own destruction.

    Welcome home!


  3. Did you think that lot up whilst on all fours selena ?

  4. yes indeed the blogging blues. Bryan I have always found your blog articles useful--you introduced me to two of the greatest living thinkers on this blog--John Gray and Marilynne Robinson. That is real.

    Obviously if you think the blogging is undermining you then you must stop it. But only you can decide that.

  5. I agree with Chris. Quite simply the information and thoughts shared on this blog have directed and pushed me to become slightly less of a philistine. Perhaps you should continue only because my bookgroups June novel is The Transit of Venus.(They're also Marilynne devotees now-we need a suggestion for July).

  6. Debarred from being intellectually honest we are actually threatening the survival of intelligent culture.

    Well, there you go, Bryan. Not only can you enjoy a well-earned rest, you can tell yourself you are doing so in the cause of saving intelligent culture. Win-win all around. :-)

  7. I have thoughts like that when I return from a day trip to London, never mind two-month hacks abroad.

    It'll come back. Or it might not. Either way, thanks for a bloody good run thus far.

  8. With this thought in mind, I wonder if the reverse holds true, and I'll feel compelled to resume regular daily blogging whilst spending the entire month of June traveling here and there in Britain.

  9. It's just the peyote wearing off. Go out and have some British ale. It will bring you about in no time.

  10. Oh well, I think I'm a more alert and curious person than I was a year ago, thanks to your blog and the many others who've posted to it. Whether you take up blogging again or not, I echo Brit: "thanks for a bloody good run thus far".

    I wonder about the persona thing. An inevitable entrapment or simply what happens when we try to express ourselves? On the other hand, something written with no personal impress at all would carry all the interest of a Haynes manual. So, er ...

  11. Interesting articulation, Bryan. I had a similar experience after my first break from blogging (only a week) after a year. I'd previously been addicted to it, in various ways, yet on returning after a break, it seemed almost impossible to start writing it again, and it never returned to being what it was previously.
    I go through many phases with the blog, does one write it to get comments and traffic, or as an extension of one sort or another of one's self -- or some combination? The blog is a projection of the self on some level. Sometimes I wonder if it is similar to those people who are extrodinarily devoted to their pets, ascribing them names, personalities, and so on. Or is a blog one's child? Am I mad? Probably. But at least, on a blog, quietly and in the privacy of my own home or airport terminal ;-)

  12. It's a strange and dirty world, blogging.

    i liked the undefended quality of your posts, that even getting repeated venom from anonymous and other commentators, you didn't close down or reply with venom. It took me a while to get a proper blogging stance, from which i could write quite openly but still be braced against the occasional abuse i get. Eventually i decided to just automatically delete stupidly venomous comments.

    i guess your situation is/was worse, in that you're 'a name', and so draw more fire, though you're of course a good deal more tactful and less pornographic than Elberry (Elberry, frankly, is a dirty old man). It's not just people objecting to your posts; it seems that people expect you to adulate their blogs, and if you don't too bad for you...a nasty world.

    Your blog and on-line articles helped keep my mind alive when i found them in 2006; and about half my readers seem to have found me via your blog, so i have much to be thankful for.

    i hope Nige continues in your stead, anyway.

  13. Oh come on - I assume you didn't interview Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or any of the torturers from Abu Ghraib... Perhaps you didn't spend enough time in the 'staid humdrum' of the Mid West, or talk to enough gun toting Bible fanciers. Get a grip!

  14. Why don't you give us a blog entry about these cool folks you met in the States? Sounds like an ideal subject and quite at odds with the CNN/Fox/Huffington view of the US that many of us encounter. Possibly in this week of all weeks, being a City fan will make you feel especially grey and shrunken.

  15. Come to think of it Bryan I had just written a piece singing the praises of US politics which I find exhilarating, but then looking at some of the (critical) things it could be missing from the British scene. To boot it is based on the loathed Guardianistas. Check it out.

  16. It is relatively easy not to be unpleasant. Most of us can do it for long periods at a go. However, an insult here, a snide remark there, is healthy and shouldn't be suppressed. As long as its controlled and pointed. If directed at, say, close family members, it's positively cathartic. As for not being stupid, well, that's a different kettle of fish fingers altogether. I for one have given up trying to be smart. And I thoroughly recommentd it. No more pressure. It's great. In fact, I've embraced stupdity and have slowly grown to appreciate its subtleties, its hidden depths.

    As for you, Bryan, give me a break. You have more interesting thoughts over breakfast than most of us manage in a week. And I mean a week of serious, pipe-smoking stuff. Not just an average week. But who am I to say? Sure, I'm so stupid, I don't even eat breakfast.

  17. Hi Bryan,

    You understand, however, that this is a terrific blog post you've made. You say:

    Well, obviously, I was just posting chance thoughts and observations. There is a sentimental and romantic view that such improvisations are, somehow, more true to oneself than more considered creations. But, in truth, in blogging, as in painting or poetry, improvisation is seldom what it seems. It is more a product of the environment than the self . . .

    That is true, but it is not all of it, and the truth of it has a lot to do with how we are at anything we do in life. If we are to interact with the world in any way, move towards the rewards it has to give, and move away from our pains and dislikes, we are necessarily going to be shaped by our environment, and much of what we do and learn will become unconscious.

    So you say: "'Better at blogging' meant, therefore, creating a self to meet the selves that I met online." That is true. By the way, it took a lot of unconscious conditioning over time for you to make yourself into the writer you are. And you continually change as the world and society changes, but also as your view of the future changes, the past, your immediate surroundings, the people whom you contact and come into contact with, your perspectives, as everything changes. What you have done has been important and life-changing to us others in your environment.

    This is what you get for entering the game, for living with gusto. We each condition each other. We think we are teaching a baby how to interact in the world, but just as much, the baby conditions us into baby-talking and such. And there is the famous moment when the students of a psychology class decided to only look at their professor when he was on the left side of the room--a little experiment that worked until the teacher became conscious of how he was teaching only from the far left side of the room.

    Your experience as you describe it, is a lot like how it was for me to come back from flatlining in the ER in 2003. The staff in the room were so busy trying to keep me alive, looking very concerned, moving around quickly. I wanted to say not to worry, that they were doing the best they could, that if I died, then it would not be because they did not try, and it would more be that it was my time to go. A quite zenlike experience if I can put it that way, or maybe like Dr. Livingstone's, a very natural preparation for impending death:

    I saw the lion just in the act of springing upon me. I was upon a little height; he caught my shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below together. Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a terrier-dog does a rat. The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though quite conscious of all that was happening.

    In my case, I left the world, even if just for minutes. In Dr. Livingstone's, he was about to leave, until his friend shot the lion saving him. In your case, you left your culture. You who adapted, you adapted.

    A thought came to me in that moment that I saw myself as having a different attitude from the ER doctors, nurses, and other workers, about a dozen or so there in Room 9; a recognition that I was the only one in the room who could be so cavalier about my own death, that they all cared, and cared a lot. A quick mental leap searching for what I might care about, and I thought of my daughter.

    I had not left her a note that I was going to the hospital. She would be home by now, and would have no way of reaching me if she realized I was not there (here), where 99% of the time I would be.

    Immediately I cared a lot about being alive, and I know this upon reflection, but it was assumed then. I said, "Call my daughter Laura. Her number is in my wallet." What I heard back was, "We cannot understand you, Mr. Bowden, relax." Then someone outside the room off to the left of my feet spoke into the room and said, "He's saying to call his daughter Laura, that her number is in his wallet." I nodded, and she came into the room and made the call. I noticed myself tearing up.

    I am now very much aware that to be fully alive is to enter the game in whatever environment we find ourselves, and that it is other people that matter the most. And in our activity, it is the little things, like leaving a note, that are most important.

    I seeing travelling, now, as a kind of death experience, coming back alien to the world. Welcome back, Mr. Appleyard. You're one of us.


  18. Just checking in -- my latest addiction is to playing Scrabble on Facebook ('Scrabulous'), which is giving me *a lot* less time for blog reading and commenting.

    If you've discovered some laudable Americans, I in particular am glad. But it's odd to me that you're sad to be home: I love to travel, but I'm always delighted to get back to the U.S. (well, obviously after visits to some places more than others).

    What I like about this blog is the robust and sarcastic wit of the Brit(ish), exemplified by yourself and modulated by sweet, woodsy Nige. I do believe, still, that folks from Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland (trying not to leave anyone out) are quicker with their wits than Americans, Australians, or other English speakers. Dunno why, but it draws me.

    Do whatever you're gonna do. I recommend Scrabulous if you're into words!

  19. Glad to read you are back in your own bed safe and sound.
    On the blog issue, it might be more enjoyable for you if you put the more contemplative posts in a side window and leave them for a few days. As all of them require a bit more thought to plum their depths.