The short answer is that I blog to explain the world to myself.
Having other people read my thoughts, comment on them, find them interesting and/or entertaining, discuss them with me, point out new implications that I hadn’t thought of on my own, present contrasting views, and correct my errors, are all possible, and quite welcome, benefits (possible because it isn’t really happening yet – and it may never happen) – but they aren’t the raison d’etre for the blog.
However, for the (very) long answer …
For me, however, blogging is a technological extension of something I’ve been doing since I was 13: scrawl in notebooks to clarify what I was thinking. I got the idea from reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth (ISBN 0-15-144233-9) where one of the secondary characters (Karl Helmer) uses a notebook to record his thoughts. Being 13, my scrawls and sketches lacked any form of systemization or internal structure; they were just stream-of-consciousness scrawling that helped to clarify my thoughts. They were totally illegible to anyone but me, and being a broody young teenager with strong ideas of privacy, that would have suited me fine if I ever considered the matter.
When I went to university I quickly realized that in “post class bull sessions”, explaining concepts and topics to friends that didn’t quite grasp an idea actually helped me enormously. In retrospect, this shouldn’t be surprising: marshaling facts into a structure that is coherent enough to articulate clearly and be readily understood by the listener means that I have to organize my thoughts more than I would have for my own use. Facts have to be fitted into the existing understood body of knowledge, examples found for introduced concepts, implications of the changes caused by fitting this new facts into the “big picture” tracked down, questions dealt with, etc. In the end, the “new facts” are blended seamlessly into the body of “preexisting knowledge”. I know that several of my classmates were thankful for my help, but I benefited from “helping them” as much as they did.
When I went back to school later in life (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”) I deliberately set out to recreate what had been a happy accident many years before. Not only did I discuss things with my classmates, but I totally changed the way I studied for exams, and in the process probably convinced my neighbors that I was insane. In the days before major exams I would grab my textbook and carefully and systematically explain the material, out loud, to … nobody! I would deal with my own questions, doubts, and sideline issues like they had been posed by an external speaker, pace up and down the room, and even draw imaginary diagrams on the wall with a fingertip to illustrate certain concepts. You might consider this eccentric behavior, or worse – but it worked. It absolutely cemented the course material in my head, and even better, integrated it into what I already knew rather than committed it to rote memory.
That is really the core reason that I blog: to explain in a systematic and (at least semi) rigorous manner to an audience – real or not! – the ideas that I am putting into my head, and to articulate the ideas that come out of it, and thus to clarify those thoughts. This doesn’t mean this is going to be a blog about “lofty thoughts” (whatever those are); I’m as prone to ponder inanities and trivialities, or vent opinions, as the next person. I’m just trying to do so systematically
You, the reader, are most welcome here, however. People reading what I’m thinking, agreeing or disagreeing and saying so, pointing out contrasting views, mentioning implications I hadn’t thought of, and generally discussing topics we both find interesting is a most welcome occurrence. Please feel free to comment and discuss; this blog still functions if it is only a diary that I write in, but I have to admit it would be a much more rich and cheery place with your feedback.
Related Posts (internal links)
- “Struggling with style”, Dec 9th 2006
- “Frustration”, Dec 12th 2006
- “Struggling with structure”, Dec 23rd 2006