It’s December! Time goes so fast in memory. There’s snow drifting softly across the window of my web browser once more.
There are a number of reasons why I like blogs. Most of them are not very good reasons, related to having people overlook various communicational failings. Still, a few of them are, I believe, legitimate. One of those is the way in which thoughts and ideas sort of bounce about, responding to one another, usually indirectly. That’s something I loved about studying great books as well: conversations had out in the public square, with one fellow responding to someone he had never met, but who had influenced his thought and how he saw the world. In some ways I dislike that everyone for several centuries interested in philosophy has had to respond to Hume, but it’s a little thrilling to see how important he was; to watch someone like Kant reply to him with great seriousness, even alarm. I like that nowadays we can post a link to something someone else has said, so that other people can see where it came from. It’s like a bunch of open letters, none of which directly responds to another, but all of which reflect others. Of course, the indirectness of electronic communication has its drawbacks as well: it can become a bunch of people writing into the void, and failing to really listen to one another, the way a letter requires. It can become all about attracting numbers of people, forgetting, as letter writers must not, the value of a single attentive reader. It’s certainly the case that I often forget that value when I’m writing for I know not whom, and am slovenly in a way I would try not to be when writing to someone in particular. The longer I write and talk, however, the more I realize how often our conversations fly past one another, even in person, so that it’s nearly impossible to tell what someone did or did not hear, and whether it dissipated immediately or stuck around for a bit, rearranging the folds of someone’s brain. I do that to people a lot, listening quietly, trying to figure out what they’re saying — and sometimes it’s even very important to me — but rarely responding directly. That, I hear, is one of those introvert traits. But it’s a little daunting as well, to think that some of my students or someone who reads what I say might take it seriously, and be really puzzled by it.