Pulling a Shelley

Recovered  from the Wayback Machine.

There are several webloggers I admire not just because of their facility with writing, but also because they stand by what they write. They may debate their words, but they don’t retract them, and rarely regret them.

In particular, I’ve always liked Jonathon Delacour’s tenacity when it comes to his writing. His work doesn’t always follow the popular path (and I don’t always agree with what he writes) but he stands by his writing with humor, elegance, and skill and without becoming belligerant or defensive when it’s questioned or even attacked.

(Does anyone remember You and I both know, Dave, that the breathtaking hypocrisy of “Where Men Can Link, But They Can’t Touch” isn’t going to get “looked at” any time soon, not by the BlogSisters nor by anyone else in the blogging universe?).

When AKMA writes about confidentiality, or Dorothea writes about self perception and ugliness, neither is taking a “popular” view on their subjects, but both are writing from the heart. They stand by their writing.

Loren once used the term “Pullling a Shelley” to denote putting one’s foot in one’s mouth — writing something regreted, which is then either pulled or apologized for. And I agree with Loren, that I have been “pulling a Shelley” far too frequently. However, my use of the term is perhaps not in the sense that Loren intended.

Lately I’ve been writing more and more “from the heart”, but then I don’t have either the strength or the courage to stand by what I write. And if people I like or respect disagree or question what I write, or I don’t get positive feedback and lots of comments, I tend to equivocate, explain, retract, or apologize for my writing.

My last posting is a classic example of “Pulling a Shelley”. By putting myself into an apologetic stance within the comments, by ‘explaining’ what I was trying to write, I didn’t stand by my writing. And what I wrote was lessened because of my wanting to ‘please’ my audience, even though my audience wasn’t asking for either a retraction or an explanation — they wanted a dialogue.

I think if there is one trait I have that can be said to be stereotypically ‘feminine’, it’s fear of alienating people I like, or whom I want to like me. Unfortunately, this fear of losing affection carries over into my writing.

Earlier today, I caught myself in the act of “Pulling a Shelley” in comments attached to one of Jonathon’s postings. In the them, Mark Pilgrim wrote:

“Work that is accessible in every sense of the word” is such an incredible weasel phrase. It’s like a philosophy freshman who is losing a philosophical argument and falls back to the “dictionary definition” of some technical term in order to make their point.

I’m becoming Stallman. I can just see it.

I wrote in response, You’re not in danger of becoming Stallman, Mark. But you are in danger of becoming intolerant in your zeal.

Later in the afternoon, I found myself going back to Jonathon’s comments, wanting to attach, if not an apology, at least a softening of my comment. Yet, there’s no need for such prevarication — my statement wasn’t a personal attack on Mark and wasn’t said to hurt him or antagonize him. It was my honest opinion based on his statement — why do I feel this need to apologize for it?

There’s a difference between writing to antagonize — to generate buzz or to deliberately create controversy — and writing from the heart. If one writes from the heart, no matter how difficult the writing is for our audience, then we have an obligation to ourselves and to our readers to stand by what we write — not in defensiveness, but with openess and honesty.

Time for me to stop “Pulling a Shelley”. Perhaps I’ll try “Pulling a Loren”, instead…


Already feeling the effects

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today, President Bush will address the nation with his rationale for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. I would say that if the increase in noise of this issue is anything to go by, I expect to see a strike sooner rather than later. And I still don’t understand the frenzy associated with Iraq, and with our having to strike now.

The likely invasion of Iraq is polarizing this country as it hasn’t been since the Vietnam war. And along with the moral, civil, and legal implications of our launching a first strike against Hussein, we can now add an economic impact: in my area at least, several major employers have halted hiring at this time, awaiting ‘further developments’.

For someone who opposes a hasty first strike against Iraq without UN support, careful thought and pre-planning, and a very real consideration of the lives that will be lost, this situation is disturbing. Being unemployed only makes the situation even more frustrating. If that makes me selfish, I guess there are others who are also selfish — or is worried the better word?

Just Shelley

Death by a thousand paper cuts

I’ve always had this thought at the back of my mind that we would live forever if it weren’t for life intruding.

Aside from the effects of our environment, of gravity and solar radiation and our proclivity in fouling our own nests, we could live much longer than we do except that we keep persisting in wanting to kill ourselves off with life.

If we didn’t care about about geographical boundaries, we wouldn’t fight to preserve or gain them. And if we didn’t believe in religion or philosophy, we wouldn’t feel the need to protect them with our lives. Or the need to fight to force others to believe as we believe.

And love. If we didn’t love others we could live ever so much longer. There would be no worries, no care, no long nights and silent mornings. No grief when love dies, no sadness and loss when love goes unfulfilled. An eternity stretches out in front of us if it weren’t for love.

We connect to others in friendship, and this is a real danger to life. Every time we become concerned about others—feel their pain, listen to their stories—we take away a minute, hour, or day of life.

Death by a thousand thousand paper cuts.

There should be a disclaimer attached to life:

Warning: When you care about others, your life will be well lived.