My three-hundredth post

by Rob Tiller

Yates Mill Pond, October 11, 2014

Yates Mill Pond, October 11, 2014

Early Wednesday morning I saw the lunar eclipse. On Thursday I reinstituted my meditation practice after a long sabbatical. On Friday evening I attended an inspiring recital by the great pianist Richard Goode, and reconnected with several of my good piano friends. On Saturday, for the first (and possibly last) time, I finished first in my spin class at Flywheel, and happily read the front page headline of the first gay couples in North Carolina to experience legal wedded bliss. These would ordinarily be potential subjects for this week’s post. But this week is special, inasmuch as it’s the 300th edition of the Casual Blog.

Many moons ago, I set myself the goal of writing one post a week on my non-professional activities and thoughts, and that’s pretty much what I’ve done. I’ve been trying to think what to say about this milestone, and it occurred to me to explain why I create the Casual Blog, or what I get out of it. But if I’m honest, which I try to be, I must admit I’m still not completely sure.

I enjoy finishing a post, but starting one always involves a degree of existential dread. Once a week, I ask myself, do I have anything else worth saying/sharing, and I always worry that the answer is no, I’ve run dry. And so it was this week. But I’ve already succeeded in writing three paragraphs!

I generally dislike writing about writing, and now I’ve gone and done it. But onward! There’s some odd part of me that enjoys the exertion of forcing the buzzing blooming flood of experience into the narrow channel of language. Writing about an experience usually shows me something about the experience I hadn’t known before. And there is at times a joy in language that has less to do with the meaning than with pure sound.
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Then there’s always the struggle for understanding, for meaning. Things happen. Events flow out of other events, sometimes cohering in an orderly way, with pleasing patterns, and other times cracking and scattering. What does it all mean? Blogging will likely not yield an ultimate answer, but it creates a platform, a workbench for reviewing experience that yields new perspectives.

As with Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle, we can’t observe and record our lives without changing them. That is, writing about one’s life changes the life. The imperative to make a post non-boring could lead to inauthenticity, but not necessarily. It could also inspire curiosity and get you out of your shell. The blogging commitment could lead to adventure!

Most important, there’s also the complicated sensation of communicating with another human. For the writer, the reader is ever-present as an as idea and concern, but almost never physically present. Without the reader, the writer would never write, but the connection is always tenuous. Who is the reader? Open or closed? Friend or foe? Can we connect? The writer in the act of writing is never certain.

And whenever we reach out to another human, trying to be honest, showing something about ourselves that’s real, there’s an element of risk. There’s a chance we’ll make total fools of ourselves. This gets the juices going. It’s kind of exciting. Actually, it is exciting!
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But it is also difficult. Whatever words are chosen means other words are not chosen. So many possible words, and possible choices, but whatever the choices, however good they are, others just as good will be excluded, sacrified. You know this when you start. But something still causes you to reach out, to explore, to experiment. There are satisfying little discoveries, and sometimes there’s evidence that you got through, made a connection.

So, you ask, what lies ahead for the Casual Blog? I really don’t know. Part of what I like about it is it’s voluntary, unnecessary, and contingent. It doesn’t have to be any particular thing, and could cease at any time. As I said, I’m always aware of the possibility of running dry, and I would stop posting if it stopped being fun. Or if my readers disappeared.

But part of me feels that I’m just getting well started, and I’m still enjoying experimenting and learning. If there were somehow more hours in the day, I could imagine writing a number of more specialized blogs, in addition to my professional writing. It would be fun to tend blogs on scuba diving, playing the piano, travel, global warming, opera, golfing, animal rights, ballet, political corruption, vegetarian restaurants, exercise, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, nature photography, poetry, artificial intelligence, the surveillance state, migratory birds, history, books I’m reading, etc. We shall see.

A monarch in downtown Raleigh, October 8, 2014

A monarch in downtown Raleigh, October 8, 2014