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.



Filed under Art, Blogging, Essays, Hope, Identity, life, Modern Life, Thoughts, Writing

3 responses to “Bubbles

  1. I’m here, although I rarely comment on your posts, it’s not for lack of interest. This one, however, echoes thoughts about blogging that I too have had. What’s it for? It keeps me happy, occasionally feels a bit like a burden, but as you say, if I didn’t do it, I’d get out of the habit of writing. I enjoy your take on the world.

    Thank you, and thank you for commenting. I can wonder sometimes whether anyone is out there, but writing connects me a common experience and, as you say, keeps me happy. —D

  2. Dan

    Your writings, David, seem to me very much like Emily Dickinson’s “letter to the world / that never wrote to me.” I’m also reminded of Keats’ letters, which I find every bit as memorable as his poems. If letter writing can be an art form, I don’t see why blog posts can’t be also. In the end, it seems to me less a question of art than audience. As Dickinson exuberantly exclaimed, “I’m nobody!”

    How strange, we’re just doing Emily Dickinson in class this week and just read these poems. The consensus was that Dickinson did and didn’t want to be heard, that she wrote out of some clear compulsion to tame her pet issues and might have done so without a reader in sight. The frequency of poems about not being heard, however, suggests it bothered her… despite frequent protestations to the contrary.

    If a bunch of neo-modernists find my work in 50 years and make me a cultural hero, that’d be okay, but I wanted to write as much about the blog form as about my own blogging. The few blogs attaining prominence usually offer something novel instead of common. Maybe the humanity of blogging dooms it somewhat. No threshold bars anyone, and what might be most beautiful about blogging, the grassroots literary feel of it, also means it’s too easy to be taken very seriously.

    I take it seriously, as a sort of letter writing, and like the idea of writing into the dark. But it’s nice when it’s not so dark, when something at least momentarily evokes a response.

    Thanks for reading. –David

  3. Nate

    There are times I consider a comment, but the response I want to share seems personal so I send e-mails. I am out here, though, and am very glad that you do this.

    …emails I should be better about answering. I don’t mean to spill lamentation and despair. I do appreciate everyone who visits and reads.

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