Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Monday, August 09, 2004  

Why Quit, Why Now?

For those of you who blog, you already know one answer to this question. What begins as a seduction--your words on the World Wide Web!, for all to read!, instantaneously!, free!--can eventually become a burden. Ideas seem fresh because the brain writing them is unknown; later, the same ideas are familiar and tired. For the blogger, this offers the interesting challenge of finding new ideas or revisiting old ideas in new ways. It's possible, but given the immediacy of blogging, it's a brutal task. But that, of course, is not my reason.

I love to blog. I'm a wonk's wonk: the manner and language of Scott McClellan's obfuscations not only deeply interest me, but somehow seem significant. Even for blog readers, that level of interest in the politics of politics can get a little dull. (And don't get me started on polls.) I don't mind the grind of digging around for some interesting tidbit that might be useful in a post, or the haze that results from thinking about how to write it. In terms of entertainment, blogging is as good as it gets.

I'm throwing in the towel because it's not good for my mental health. This past week, on the Buddhist retreat, we practiced the most basic form of meditation--putting the attention on the breath as a way of calming the mind. It predates Buddhism and has been practiced by most religious communities for thousands of years. I've been a practicing Buddhist for 7 years, and in that time, I've never seen the level of my mind's inattention get as bad as it is now. It's an index--and a pretty good one--of where one's mental health is. Blogging isn't the only factor, but it's a central contributor. Moreover, it's far from essential--I don't have to blog to feed myself. I can't cut back on all the things that jeopardize my mental health, but blogging is expendable.

I'm aware that bloggers are necessary in politics right now--necessary to the left, anyway. Big ideas aren't going to come from slick politicians who are well-funded by multinational corporations. They're going to come from people who give a damn about the country and aren't indebted to anyone. Blogs are dangerous to power. They offer a critical perspective that offsets the monopolization of power by the wealthy and corrupt. In an age of media laxity, they are the only medium with an independent voice.

In fact, about a year ago, someone told me that it was all well and good to type away on my little blog, but I shouldn't kid myself into thinking I was actually doing any good. To make real change, you needed to scuff the leather of your soles. There is real change happening in America, and it didn't come from the sole-scuffers (not, ahem, solely, at least). They are a critical component, but you need people with big ideas and a medium in which to broadcast them as well. A modern revolution absolutely will not happen without a broadcast medium. Blogs are that medium and I think they're the main reason the Democratic party has begun to veer left after all these years--and will keep veering left if bloggers do their work. Bloggers are canaries in the coalmine--we speak for the people. Eventually, the country will follow and we'll move away from the madness of the neocon precipice.

I am happy to have been a blogger during this heady time. I'll always be able to say that during the 2004 campaign, my blog was linked by the DNC. But damaging one's mental health is in the best interest of nothing. Buddhism is a religion of the "middle way"--the path between extremes. As the chaos of my mind this past week showed me, my life has gotten a little out of whack. The nature of blogging encourages obsession, and I need to back away from it. I will continue to post on The American Street (Thursdays) and Blue Oregon. The pace will be far slower and the posts may be richer--that's my hope, anyway.

Things change. I hope that my departure from regular blogging is a benefit to me and possibly even to the blogosphere. In any case, it was a great run, and I had one king hell of a time. As they say in Wisconsin: forward.

posted by Jeff | 9:21 AM |
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