There’s a lot that is unpleasant about blogging. It doesn’t outweight, for me, the inherent pleasantness in the activity, but there’s a lot that’s not so great. I’ve been threatened, trolled, had my words twisted and pulled apart by people who weren’t looking to understand but to win, and I’ve had my reputation smeered in ways that hurt and upset people I care about in real life, and in ways that, though it happened ages ago, still come up.
Though I often forget it, Sarcastro once said something to me that has kept me from greater heartbreak on-line–“The internet is not real.”
I would modify that, a little. I think that this is obviously real. Here I am writing this and it appears on screen and you react to it or you don’t. But it leaves evidence of its existance and it causes things to happen. I think it’s as real as it gets.
Just in the years since he told me that, I’ve come to believe that the internet is not True, only the illusion of True. Hell, maybe Shakespeare’s right and the whole world is a stage and we are always already acting our parts. But that is even more true on the internet. I cannot see your face. I cannot hear the shake or the joy in your voice. I cannot hold your hand. I cannot shut my eyes and just listen to you snore quietly on the couch. I trust that you are real, but I cannot, in this medium trust that I know the truth of you.
And I cannot know whether you are trying to show me the truth of you or just trying to have a forum in which you can unaccountably act your shit out.
Which brings me to piece of wisdom I am glad to have, part two–Say Uncle’s slogan “I do this for me, not you.”
As a progressive, this offends me at some core level. I mean, I like to believe that, when I’m at my best, I’m serving the greater good. Built into that is obviously the belief that it is the right thing to serve others. And yet, I don’t think that’s deliberately possible on the internet. What you do can achieve good, but I’m not sure you can set out deliberately to really make change on the internet and expect it to actually happen.
Change, by definition, means some core Truth has been altered and I don’t think there’s much core Truth out here. You run, repeatedly, into great fictions instead.
I think, though, that this is okay. That it’s actually useful to see this as a fiction. This is not the battlefield; this is the fireside where the stories about the battles get told, where courage to face the battlefield tomorrow is reaffirmed, where the decisions to leave the battlefield all together are made.
And once you see this as Story, not as fact, the other useful thing that emerges, I believe, is the knowledge that this is not just some random shit that has never happened before, but that there are patterns and characters and lessons handed down, and though we often must learn them again and again, we have not been abandoned to learn them without guidance.
I know I go on and on about how much I love Moya Cannon’s poems. I want to remind you again of the end of “Night” when she writes
I got out twice,
leaned back against the car
and stared up at our windy, untidy loft
where old people had flung up old junk
they’d thought might come in handy,
ploughs, ladles, bears, lions, a clatter of heros,
a few heroines, a path for the white cow, a swan
and, low down, almost within reach,
Venus, completely unfazed by the frost.
See, we have not been abandoned. Our old people put stuff they thought might come in handy–real knowledge about what it means to be human–where they’d hoped it could be found. We all have to earn that knowledge ourselves, but we don’t have to start from scratch.
Reading Theriomorph last night reminded me of that part of the poem.
How do you find what is real and useful when you are surrounded by fiction? I think you have to look for patterns, look for fictions that echo off each other in ways that ring true. It’s harder work than just taking “people” at their word, but it’s work that serves well, I think.