April 14, 2004
The blogfather speaks

Telford is wondering if he should keep (or rather, resume) blogging:

I have enjoyed doing this, but my experience has raised questions beyond whether my own commitment level is adequate. The immediacy of the medium has considerable costs and dangers as well as benefits. How many of our prayers are answered immediately? Are Jesus' disciples a discussion group? If so, doesn't Jesus rather often cut off their banter because they aren't getting anywhere? Is this tradition training us to be faithful to the apostolic tradition?

Someone claimed a while ago that if Jesus were alive today (and, er, he is) he would have a blog. Nope. I see the Athenian pundits of Acts 17:21 as the true bloggers.

I'm sure that part of the negativity in these words is late-semester fatigue, but I have doubts about the medium that go beyond burnout. Now I like reading the blogs I still frequent. I have loved getting to know new people through their writing. Their freshness and substance have made me (permanently, I hope) tired of those yahoos in big media I had learned to live with. However, the reading that has really been changing my life in the last twelve months, and the lives of my students, has come through books, not blogs.

That makes me think twice about whether to go back to spending so much of my reading and writing time in this medium.

Appeals from people like Camassia have brought me back to blogging before. I would welcome arguments about why I (and others) should rethink these thoughts. However, at this point I need convincing.

The last bit he refers to, for those of you who don't know, is how we met. In the summer of '02 he stopped blogging for about six weeks, so I wrote him an email telling him how much I liked his blog and asking if he'd start it again. And so the rest of it followed: the friendship, the church, and my own blog.

Some of that might have happened anyway -- even before that, I'd been thinking of starting a blog, and of trying a church. But it's safe to say that his blog changed my life, so it's a little weird seeing him wonder about the usefulness of the medium. But it's true that I've also been thinking he should stop blogging. He never really had time for it, and it made him feel guilty that he wasn't attending to it or to the related responses and emails. Also, his writing style isn't suited to the medium. Since I'm a reporter and, more importantly, pseudonymous, I'm comfortable dashing things off and working things out as I go, whereas Telford feels he has to properly represent his position, his school, his faith, and himself. Plus, as he admitted to me the other day, academic writing has just ruined him for conciseness.

I also always thought him to be awfully extroverted for blogging. A while ago Fr. Jim collected bloggers' Myers-Briggs results and found them to be an extremely introverted group, even though introverts are only about a quarter of the population. That's really not surprising, since blogging is the ideal introvert's way of forming relationships, as we often have trouble forming them the usual way (the usual ways generally established by extroverts). But Telford has, if anything, too many relationships, what with the large family and the students and church and neighbors and friends. He's the kind of guy who's inclined to like everybody he meets, and usually they like him back.

So it wouldn't bother me, particularly, if he finally shut down the blog. But I do think, given my own experience with it, that it does something that books don't. It reaches people like me. As a lonely and troubled agnostic back in '02 I was not going to read the books that he and his students have been reading. I'd never even heard of their authors. Book learning is, I'm sure, deeper than blogging for people who already have had in-person experience with faith and church. But for those outside, with no idea where to start, blogging is a much better way in.

If Telford had never started his blog, not only would I never have met him, I most likely would never have met anyone like him. Out in the 3-D world, we look at each other across several divides: agnostic and Christian, married and single, Republican and Democrat, reporter and professor. I'm impressed with the way that blogging brought not only Telford and me together, but the way my own blog, with no particular design of my own, brought in such a variety of people. If there is another environment where Catholics and Protestants and Quakers and Gnostics and Buddhists all "share the same couch," as my brother-in-law put it, I don't know what it is.

So that's the value of blogging to my mind. And I do think it may be apostolic.

Posted by Camassia at April 14, 2004 01:41 PM | TrackBack

Some things in my life I have always done. They are matters of habit, tradition, commitment or joy. Other things I have done because I had a specific purpose, infatuation or curiosity, and they have not lasted. When its purpose is completed, the infatuation cooled, or the curiosity satisfied, the activity has fallen away from my life.

I, too, am getting a lot out of my blogging life at the moment. I have no idea whether this activity will have any permanance. Maybe my need to express my learnings, or to ask for input and guidance from others, will eventually be satisfied, and I'll decide to call it quits.

Or maybe the march of technology will alter this medium in some huge way and we bloggers will all reconvene in another iteration of introverted, technology-assisted conversation. Most blogs I visit are less than two years old. This medium is still a toddler, by my reckoning.

Regardless, Telford's service to you and to many others in this regard may be nearing completion. God may have tasks other than blogging for him to explore. But what a wonderful purpose God has used him for: providing you with an foundational mentor! And in turn, your own work, here in this blog, has provided nourishment for so many other people!

I wish Telford well. I wish you well. I thank God for you both. Gosh, now, what's that bible passage again? Oh, yeah, here it is: Philemon v.4-7:

"When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you..."

Posted by: Dash on April 14, 2004 09:19 PM

Beautifully said. Thank you.

Posted by: Camassia on April 15, 2004 05:33 PM
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