Ray Davis at Pseudopodium has a thought-provoking post about weblogging as conversation:

Writing helps me suspend disbelief in persistent community. Writing helps me prolong the hope of shared pleasure and cooperative knowledge. If the intoxication’s weaker, so is the hangover.
If T. V. and I are right that weblogging can approximate, more closely than any other form, our ideal of written conversation, then we can expect that weblogging will expose, more painfully than any other form, the costs and contradictions of that ideal.

But so long as we just keep reminding ourselves it doesn’t matter, I guess it’ll be OK. As the poet sang, or, more precisely, as the poet painted backwards in varnish on a hand-hammered and polished copper plate, relief-etched in acid, pressed in multiple pigments, hand-painted, and then sold a few copies of over the next three decades:

If thought is life
And strength & breath;
And the want
Of thought is death;
Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

That’s Blake, and here‘s an image of the plate so lovingly invoked. And here’s a bit of Montaigne quoted by Ray that resonates strongly with me:

I know by experience this sort of nature that cannot bear vehement and laborious premeditation. If it doesn’t go along gaily and freely, it goes nowhere worth going. We say of certain works that they smell of oil and the lamp, because of a certain harshness and roughness that labor imprints on productions in which it has a large part. But besides this, the anxiety to do well, and the tension of straining too intently on one’s work, put the soul on the rack, break it, and make it impotent; as happens with water, which because of the very pressure of its violence and abundance cannot find a way out of an open bottle-neck.
It is no less peculiar to the kind of temperament I am speaking of, that it wants to be stimulated: not shaken and stung by such strong passions as Cassius’ anger (for that emotion would be too violent); not shocked; but roused and warmed up by external, present, and accidental stimuli. If it goes along all by itself, it does nothing but drag and languish. Agitation is its very life and grace.
I have little control over myself and my moods. Chance has more power here than I. The occasion, the company, the very sound of my voice, draw more from my mind than I find in it when I sound it and use it by myself. Thus its speech is better than its writings, if there can be choice where there is no value.


Je cognois, par experience, cette condition de nature, qui ne peut soustenir une vehemente premeditation et laborieuse. Si elle ne va gayement et librement, elle ne va rien qui vaille. Nous disons d’aucuns ouvrages qu’ils puent l’huyle et la lampe, pour certaine aspreté et rudesse que le travail imprime en ceux où il a grande part. Mais, outre cela, la solicitude de bien faire, et cette contention de l’ame trop bandée et trop tendue à son entreprise, la met au rouet, la rompt, et l’empesche, ainsi qu’il advient à l’eau qui, par force de se presser de sa violence et abondance, ne peut trouver issue en un goulet ouvert. En cette condition de nature, de quoy je parle, il y a quant et quant aussi cela, qu’elle demande à estre non pas esbranlée et piquée par ces passions fortes, comme la colere de Cassius (car ce mouvement seroit trop aspre), elle veut estre non pas secouée, mais solicitée; elle veut estre eschaufée et reveillée par les occasions estrangeres, presentes et fortuites. Si elle va toute seule, elle ne fait que trainer et languir. L’agitation est sa vie et sa grace. Je ne me tiens pas bien en ma possession et disposition. Le hasard y a plus de droict que moy. L’occasion, la compaignie, le branle mesme de ma voix, tire plus de mon esprit, que je n’y trouve lors que je le sonde et employe à part moy. Ainsi les paroles en valent mieux que les escripts, s’il y peut avoir chois où il n’y a point de pris.
(Essais, Livre 1, Chapitre 10, “Du Parler Prompt ou Tardif,” translated here as “Of Ready or Slow Speech.”)

Link to Pseudopodium via wood s lot.

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