Recognizing Limitations

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I visited the Blogshares page for this weblog recently, only to find my stock value has gone through the roof again. I have no idea why. However, I gather from the value of my P/E that the sudden high value is artificial and will most likely be adjusted quickly. I believe this means “sell”.

I’m not much into stock markets, even ones that trade in weblog shares. What interested me more about the page is the votes people have cast for the “industries” they feel typifies this weblog. People voted me into the software and weblogs industries, which isn’t surprising because of my technical writing. I was also voted into the photography industry, which pleased me quite a bit. However, the industry vote that surprised me the most, and discomfited me, was being put in among the poetry blogs. What makes this more uncomfortable is that I’m the top valued weblog among the poetry blogs, and this really isn’t right.

My interest in poetry, aside from a few favorite poets and poems, is of recent origin and much of it is due to the excellent introduction to poetry that I’ve received from other webloggers I read. The true poetry weblogs. While it is a fact that I am writing about poetry, I’m not doing so with any real degree of comfort — in my continuing search for self, whatever that self is, I am aware that my education is incomplete in the arts and in the humanities.

When people see Burningbird as a ‘poetry’ weblog, they’re not seeing what a poetry weblog could and should be — they’re only seeing me experiment around with poetry, tentatively at best. The same applies to any discussion I have on literature or philosophy, though I will claim a greater degree of confidence in history, politics, science, and folk literature such as legends and myths. And in technology, I suppose.

Experimenting around with different interests in my weblog is a goodness, but lately, these new interests of mine have led me to be more bold in commenting about philosophy and literature and poetry in other weblogs, and these adventures into unfamiliar territory don’t always work out well. It’s not because my comments haven’t been worthwhile — how does one measure ‘worth’ in a comment? It’s because of the baggage I bring with me, which is an insecurity leading to defensiveness that can lessen the value of my input to the discussions. Though this shows a lack of sophistication on my part, I have been hurt a time or two with the responses, and this only demonstrates that I’m not quite ready for prime time. Or that, perhaps, these discussions aren’t ready for me.

Discussions should be free and easy and to a level that the participants wish. I shouldn’t demand or expect that my words be given the same weight as the words coming from people with many more years of education, thought, and, particularly, interest. All things being equal, I shouldn’t ask all the people to shop in the basement just because I’m not rich enough to move to the upper floors. Yet.

This is an issue we don’t talk about much when we discuss the easy communication enabled by weblogging — discussions of this nature generate cries of ‘elitism’ and ‘snobbery’, when in fact neither really applies. Simply put sometimes people want to have a discussion at their level of understanding. In real life, this is facilitated just by limiting one’s conversation to the group within one’s proximity (a primary reason why many people attend conferences or symposiums, or classes and lectures).

In weblogging, though, the issue becomes more complicated. We can’t limit the people who read our writings or who participate in the discussions. If we were to look for a ‘rule of level of discourse’, then I would say that the weblogger who wrote the original essay sets the tone; it is then up to the people who aren’t at that level to determine if they can add to the discussion, and to be philosophical if their inputs are ignored or rebuffed.

There is a companionship to this interlinked community we weave, but there is also a tyranny to it. A true tyranny of the commons. This can only be managed by having enough respect for our own unique contributions to know that we can’t contribute equally everywhere. This does’t mean we shouldn’t contribute — that’s how we all learn, and that’s how we all grow. We just need to be aware, no I need to be aware, that my words are not me — their worth is not my worth. I must keep in mind that rejection of my words is not rejection of me. Or if it is, then the rejection reflects more negatively on the person doing the rejecting, then myself.

Of course, there is a cost to this freedom of intellectual discourse: each voice that falls silent leaves the conversation that much less diverse. Enough voices fall silent, and the discussion becomes just a reflection, like a beam of light bounced about in a room of mirrors.

And, I have just one other note to make in regards to this topic…


Being an American does not mean I live in fast food outlets, drink only Starbuck’s coffee, watch only “Real TV”, have an American flag tattooed on my butt, listen to breasty-boppers, think that spam in a can is real gourmet food, get my news from Fox, drive an SUV bigger than the QE2, only watch Spielberg movies, only read comic books, and only believe God is looking out for us because we are the Chosen People. So next time you throw Bush in my face as a defining argument, for no other reason then I am an American and have to live with him as President, know that I’ll take your email address and register it at every major porn web site that I can find.

And then I’ll submit it to every conservative American political organization within these 50 U-ni-ted States.

Can I get an “Amen” brothers and sisters?


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