New year’s resolutions…

January 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s my first. I’ve decided to have a second go at blogging, and to try to post at least a couple of times every week. Why? Because I think it’s important to record events and thoughts as they happen – it is terrifying how easily we can forget things which, at one stage, were hugely important to us. I can never forget the way Zadie Smith puts it: that she writes in order not to sleepwalk through life. The process of writing is also in itself a healthy one, I think -it clarifies, orders, and illuminates, at least some of the time. I often have to force myself to do it, , but I never regret having taken the leap.

All very well, but why inflict my (hopefully not too rambling) musings on the rest of the world? The answer is that everything I put on here, I think is worth sharing in some form. This is not a private journal – the Internet is hardly the place for that. A blog, as I see it, is an expression of a particular view of the world, in a form which invites comment and debate. So I write for my own benefit,  but also in the hope that some of what I write might be interesting or useful (or provocative or annoying) for others.

Bearing that in mind, I should move on to something more concrete. One of the books I was given at Christmas was this:

I love that title. How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer. Elegant, but also completely straightforward – the book does what it says on the tin. I haven’t read much of it yet, but it looks to be fascinating, taking Montaigne’s life and Essays and using them to sketch out a series of ways of approaching life. It’s an idea that works brilliantly: for example, Montaigne’s work is pretty relevant to what I mentioned above – the idea of personal writing being a way towards a fully lived life. The book opens with the following paragraph:

The twenty-first century is full of people who are full of themselves. A half-hour’s trawl through the online ocean of blogs, tweets, tubes, spaces, faces, pages and pods brings up thousands of individuals, fascinated by their own personalities and shouting for attention. They go on about themselves; they diarise, and chat, and upload photographs of everything they do. Uninhibitedly extrovert, they also look inward as never before. Even as bloggers and networkers delve into their private experience, they communicate with their fellow humans in a shared festival of the self.

Bakewell suggests that Montaigne was the grandfather of the blog – the first person to write as himself, about himself, extolling rather than disguising the subjectivity of his perspective and the small details of his life.  That first paragraph isn’t quite as damning of blogs and the like as it first appears – yes, they are always to some extent vain, to some extent a plea for attention, but this does not mean that they are negative things as a whole. A “shared festival of the self” hardly sounds too bad, after all. Being “full” of yourself, as long as you are aware of the limits of that self, might be positive – it implies, at best, a full participation in the world, and a recognition of your place in it. At that point, the smallness of that place ceases to be important.

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