When I walk home in the afternoon I pass in and out of bubbles of talk and noise. Squeaky music and rhythms leak from ear-buds, or I catch a half conversation uttered into a cell phone, or I grasp pieces of some pedestrian pair’s intent dialogue. I don’t listen to any of it really, but I sense impetus behind it. These sounds have no content or real relevance to me, but they communicate tone and emotion. Each is a glimpse, however oblique, into a life.
For regular readers, blogs might seem similar, each post a bubble you dip in and out of. The effect is ephemeral. The feelings and ideas evaporate. If readers reach the end of a post, they may hand it off with mute praise—here’s something you might enjoy if you are not outrageously busy when you receive this, your 70th message today. I doubt, however, anyone rereads posts. Blogs offer single-use prose appropriate to a disposable age. Maybe someone is out there anthologizing or archiving bloggers’ outpourings, but that seems a Sisyphean task. Why bother? Tomorrow will bring a million more bubbles of talk and noise.
Before I discontinued my Facebook page, I’d link to my blog posts in notifications. My readership climbed, and, occasionally, someone wanted to talk to me about what I’d written. Most didn’t. If people were listening, they probably felt like eavesdroppers suddenly privy to thoughts they were too embarrassed to acknowledge. Without Facebook, my readership dwindles, and now only the people who comment—thank you if you comment or like my posts—tell me I’ve been overheard at all. If I mention my blog, coworkers say, “Oh, you’re still doing that?”
Hardly encouraging. Naturally, I spend time thinking about why I’m here. There’s practicing my craft and doing what I ask students to do. There’s the therapeutic exercise of self-expression that keeps quiet desperation at bay. There’s joy in creating what would not be vivid or real without someone present. There’s documentation of my cerebral life, recording thoughts so I can move on to new ones.
And at the end of the list of justifications is the unreasonable and unreasoned hope I might say something worth hearing. I don’t dare give up that hope.
Little could be creepier than tapping a fellow pedestrian on the arm and telling him or her you like the song you hear buzzing from their ear-buds or interrupting a conversation to interject that, one time, someone said that to you too. You might be arrested eventually.
Still, dear reader, I get private pleasure from recognizing our common humanity. A mother retrieves a glove her son has dropped, tugs it back onto his hand, and coos some sub-audible reassurance. On the train, a girl settles her head into the shoulder of her first boyfriend and closes her eyes. Three buddies surge from a bar loudly upbraiding a fourth for some silly thing he said, and an impish grin dawns in his face. For an entire block, someone says only “Mom… Mom… Mom…” into a chattering cell phone.
I have friends who are published writers who, ever indulgent, talk about the blog form and its particular demands and distinctiveness, but I don’t take them seriously. These posts, it seems, are the anecdotes to their stories, the random thoughts to their essays, the ditties to their poems. They are orators, and we are whisperers, attending to life that goes on in bubbles, much too human to qualify as art.