It was a dark and stormy night …
That’s how I started writing Barataria two years ago today. Like many of my small acts of humility, the reference to Bulwer-Litton was simple and funny and ultimately unnoticed by many of my readers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 43 years of life, it’s that I usually require a little more explanation than I am willing to give. Please forgive my indulgence as I look back at what I was trying to accomplish with this blog over the last two years and what has actually gone down.
This blog started at authorsden, a site that promised to help me connect with other writers. Originally, I hoped to do little more than that as I emptied my head of the loose bits that got in the way of serious work. This began to seem seem unreasonable as I found myself less interested in the mechanics of writing than a subject that is worth writing about. My musings on culture, the reason writing is essential, went past the community there. Last August, I pulled it all over to wordpress to seek a larger audience.
I have diligently and reliably posted at least three times a week for two years, the main articles on a MWF basis. Since there were no comments on authorsden, I encouraged people to e-mail me their thoughts, which I answered on Tuesdays. Six months into this experiment, a letter compelled to answer what this blog is really about; to use the great James Burke’s way of looking at the world, it’s all about connections. To me, a writer is like a community organizer in that the value to the world is in connecting people to something that improves their lives. Connecting to people in the community with similar goals is valuable work, but connecting people to new perspectives and outlooks is trickier. That’s the broader goal I always have in mind.
There is vanity to doing a blog, of course. I do believe I have something unique to say, which may come off as arrogant at times. I always hope to add a unique political and financial analysis to our world because I think what we have now is lacking. I also have always hoped to get work from the recognition that Barataria has generated, though this has not happened yet.
I’ve been a finalst for Weblog Awards twice. Stats are not perfect here at wordpress, but I seem to generate about 12k visits a month. The Alexa rankings confirm this, and they also confirm that this is higher than what most Minnesota political blogs generate. More impressive is the figure of over 20 minutes spent per visitor reading Barataria, which shows that conventional wisdom is wrong; people do sit down and read a long essay and think about it. Yet I have so few comments here that I have to worry I am not achieving my primary goal – to get people to think, and to have the favor returned.
What is this all about? I think that history never stops for any one culture, but it does have key inflection points. I believe that we are near one now. It’s taken a lot longer for this to look rather obvious than I expected, but timing of cultural events is one of my greatest weaknesses. The voyage we are on may produce an interesting discovery or two, but like Columbus it’s likely not to be what we expect. What matters is how we enjoy the discovery as a people, and then what we make of it for future generations. We may be dazzled by the toys and speed, but it’s the connections they make possible that count.
Our species of standing-up chimp has not had time to evolve since we first started writing our stories down. The only differences between then and now are in the writing and what we have learned from it. That’s what culture is all about – the things that fill the spaces inbetween which we pass from one person to the next.
The name Barataria suggests that I am a kind of Don Quixote, mentally poisoned by reading too many fantasies. In truth, I find the world itself rather quixotic. I write to you more as a dutiful Sancho Panza, keeping track of things until the madness stops; I am not a rockstar. Cervantes gave us a deep sense of melancholy when the madness finally did stop, but at least loyal Sancho was given Barataria, the swampy “cheap lands”. In the end, Barataria all I hope to achieve as well.
Thank you all for being here, because reading is what makes writing worthwhile. I hope I have added something to your life. You’ve certainly added to mine just by being here and indulging my passion for trying to make sense of the world and the curious species known as homo sapiens.
Please add your comments, and if you’d like to know more regarding what I’m getting at, just follow the links – they are to some of the posts I still like after two years. Thank you again!