Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ten Years of Blogging

Facebook reminded me the other day that another anniversary of the Never Give Up blog was approaching. It all began with a question:

A dozen or so people responded positively. That was quite a few responses on Facebook in those days (at least for me). So I began. I don't think I ever considered that I would still be blogging ten years later, or what it would all add up to (more than 200 posts a year).

Indeed, what does all of this represent? Part journal, part notebook, part scrapbook, part reflective journey through the events of a decade... it has been a "space" for many things. The possibility that other people might read or look at some part of what I post here provides some motivation for me to keep up the effort. I have invested in quite a few posts over these ten years a level of attention equal to what I would normally devote to "published articles" and there is a sense in which blogging is kind of like having my own "magazine."

Certainly, if I want to circulate my understanding, perspective, or opinion about something, the blog is an immediately accessible forum where I can put forth a serious effort and expect to reach a significant amount of interested readers. As a university professor, I am used to making presentations for small groups of people; thus, even a few readers are enough to "fill a classroom." I am not a publicist and do very little (beyond sharing links on my own social media pages and to my email subscribers) to "promote" the writing, personal photography, and digital artwork I post here.

The internet provides media platforms that have the potential to reach an audience of millions. Yet I don't aim this blog at a large readership. I remain here with more modest aspirations. Some posts are no more than simple observations, short quotations, funny pictures, or jokes. Sometimes a post can be a draft or a fragment of a project that needs to be continued, revised, and polished. Or a way of making accessible some personal reflections that might be useful to others. But there are also posts that approximate what I might present in a public lecture or are sufficiently polished to be "published articles" in the more old-fashioned sense. When I write, I always try to write well.
But I am content with a level of sharing my work here that is less formal: like what I might present in my own living room, or in a university cafeteria, or a classroom. Even if it amounts to nothing more than a "virtual office space" open to anyone to visit, with all kinds of resources and images tacked on virtual "bulletin boards" or piled in disorganized heaps, still I have found it worthwhile to continue "keeping the door open." ... Of course, the "open door" means that anyone can come in and have a look around. Ordinarily, however, this has been an advantage. Troublemakers are usually not much interested in bothering to make an effort here, but the possibility remains for those who might find something useful. And it means that some of my posts are more widely read than my articles in standard publications. Occasionally, things I have written here have reached thousands of people all over the world, receiving the kind of multiplication of publicity that the internet makes spontaneously possible (though I wouldn't say that anything has "gone viral"). Most of the time, this is due to the already existing "popularity" of the people or topics I happen to be addressing. My objective is to say something worthwhile or to work through my own thoughts and emotions; not to be trendy. I am grateful that there are significant groups of people who appreciate what I express and share it with others. It inspires me to be attentive to saying things that really do matter, and perhaps addressing aspects of common concern in a way that I am capable of doing because of my particular understanding and perspective, and my talent with words.

I do find that, after ten years, my themes and often the content of my reflections have not changed all that much. There are truths, reflections, and questions that are worthy of repetition. In these matters, I have the need to remember, renew my adherence, and ponder over and over. It's a form of discursive meditation, and I don't apologize for "saying the same things" over and over (but seeking greater depth). Often I find that I "rediscover" the enduring truths with a revitalizing freshness, and I am sure there are some readers who appreciate my sharing that with them (even if too many people in our information-content-saturated society find it boring).

First and always - in everything I write and in all my crafts, all my work, all my eating and drinking, all my joys and sufferings - I am searching for the face of Jesus Christ. I don't always mention him or make reference to him in these writings. But I have been loved by him, and embraced by him, and I know that he is the fulfillment of all things. He is the "answer" to all the essential human questions in front of the mystery of reality and ourselves.

Jesus is "the answer," but not an "easy answer." 

His embrace, his presence, his
steadfast love and fidelity, are known and followed (even "experienced" in an ever more convincing way) by the faith, hope, and love which his Spirit awakens and sustains in us. This is the gift of God's grace, given in the freedom of God's love, but also intended for everyone and even now "at work" mysteriously in everyone - even those who don't know Jesus or have left him - with the discretion and the persistence of Divine love always preparing "places" within the human person whom God has made for eternal life. 
Jesus therefore gives Christians confidence in himself, his redemption, and his promises so that we are able to live the whole drama of being human with the vital hope that he is drawing us to himself through every circumstance, that every good thing is purified, transfigured, and fulfilled in him. We search all the more passionately for meaning, side by side with our brothers and sisters in the human family with all their various ideas and conditions, within the (sometimes awful) depths of human experience, human aspirations, human questions, achievements, and sufferings. We long to see his face - the One who reveals God's love - in the depths of the mystery of life. This longing is only fulfilled in attaining our eternal destiny, but it begins now. It is the love that wounds us in this life, wounds us with longing, but also opens our hearts to solidarity and compassion with every human being.

That is why I write this blog. I am seeking the meaning and value of life, within life's circumstances: I am seeking the face of Jesus, asking to recognize his presence throughout life, and - by posting these words - inviting others to join me. That is my aspiration.

Everything human has a place here. Whenever the human heart awakens and begins to wonder (however obscure or overlaid with distorted preconceptions it may be), I want to be with that heart, somehow, because I love the One who is drawing those hearts and because he loves them with a unique, beautiful, tender love.

So I write about explicit features of the Catholic Church and "religious topics," but I also write about my family, about literature and cultural studies, about the dramatic times we live in at the dawn of the global epoch, about the challenges of unprecedented technological power, about nature and the flowers and leaves in my neighborhood, about media and communications trends, and about many kinds of people: the Pope, bishops, philosophers, workers, people fighting for political and civil liberties, people suffering from physical and mental illnesses (including myself), heroic people and people whose lives end in tragedy, ordinary people and people with great talents and oversized aspirations, sports superstars and the sports world, artists and musicians, rock stars, performers and celebrities, sinners and saints.

Some of these writings are better than others. By their nature blogs are "works in progress" - at least, blogs like mine which are places that permit "waters to be tested." The informality of my efforts here is underscored by the fact that I have never been paid a single penny for anything written for this blog. This is a place for my personal expression, my contributions to discourse at various levels, and my own search for meaning that I share as an educational gesture with anyone who wants to read what I'm writing.

As I said above, Jesus is at the center of everything, and my longing for him is what has moved me to blog over these past ten years. I hope that I have been faithful to him, and I hope that I will remain faithful.

The very first blog post is a quotation from Luigi Giussani that remains a continual reminder to me: "No gesture exists that does not involve the whole world. That's why we get up every morning: to help Christ save the world, with the strength we have, with the light we possess, asking Christ to give us more light and more strength."

Below are the first three blog posts from ten years ago, January 29-31, 2011. If you feel like squinting you can read them, or you can just see them on the bottom of the first page of this blogsite: