internet phd’s

Page One hundred twenty

wed 23 feb 2011

In the three years I’ve been writing on the internet, I know I haven’t done nearly as much reading in blogs as a great many seem to do. But I have done enough, I think, to give me a reasonable sampling of what’s here in cyberspace to read.

One of the good things that the internet is, is an equalizer. Anyone who can get to a computer, whether they own that computer or not, can write a blog if they wish to. On any subject they like. No one needs to wait for a publisher to want their words, or to have the money to self-publish. All over the world, most people have the chance to write. This democratizing effect of the internet does a lot to thin the line between those who get to publish their words and those who don’t. There are people who abuse the internet, to be sure, just as there are lunatics and predators and abusers in the flesh life. You need to exercise the same cautions you would with people you could actually see, and some people are much more cautious than others.

So lots and lots of people get the chance to write. This is good. But it’s what and how so many people are writing that I find largely unappealing and uninteresting, and yet again I am staunchly in a very small minority in my opinion. Even tweets on Twitter fall into this same pattern that has so disappointed me in blogs. Namely this: so many people are self-appointed experts. Experts on every hobby, every art, every emotional state, every life situation, every political situation you can name, and that’s only a short list of the things everyone’s an exert on. So many blogs, so many tweets, are telling us what to do and exactly how to do it. How and what to cook. How to parent. How to care for animals. What photography is. What music is, and how to write it. How to lose weight. How to respond to pain. How to heal. How to make tablecloths. How to write your memoire. What books to read and movies to see and music to hear and gadgets to buy. On and on and on and on. Do this, think this, feel this, follow these instructions. I wince when I see these things, and hope that my periodic recommendation of a book isn’t being construed as another in this endless list of instructions.  I make an offering: if you’re interested in this particular subject, I found this book helpful or informative or extremely well written. Take a look at it or don’t. It’s no big thing to me.

My father might have responded to this kind of internet writing with one of his favorite quips: Who died and made you king? Precisely. Who told anyone that they have the last and best word on animal care, or nail care, or anything else.? So many on the internet pontificate like honorary PhD’s in their chosen subjects.

This isn’t what I’m looking for when I take the time to read what regular folks who aren’t being published by New York or London or wherever are writing. I’m not looking to be told how to proceed or what to think or how to feel or how to write. I’m looking for the person. If someone is writing a cooking blog, I don’t want to simply read lists of ingredients and procedures that are the only right ones in the world. I want to read what you cooked today, and why you decided on that particular recipe. What are the flavors and textures that you like about this dish. Who did you serve it to, and did they enjoy it. What is it that you love about cooking and baking; in what ways does it feed your heart and your creativity. What is the joy and beauty in it for you. What kind of a day were you having when you decided to make this dish today, and what was the weather like, and how were you feeling. I don’t want to be told what to do, or what to think, or what to feel. I look for you to say words that make me think about something I haven’t thought much about before, or think about it from a deeper perspective. I look for you to show me what makes you motivated or pleased or angry or discouraged. I look for you to tell me who you are.

Does it sound like I’m telling you how to write your blog and tweet your tweets? Maybe it does. But that’s truly not my intent, because I know perfectly well that I don’t have the last, best word on blogging or tweeting or anything else. I’m only telling you what I as one person am looking for when I go about reading in the shadowy micro-chip world of cyberspace.

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the size of the inner self

Page One hundred eighteen                                                                                                       

Friday 11 February 2011

My father was a small man, when you measure in terms of physical size.  Small men, I think, often feel they are less masculine and taken less seriously than taller men — they have this extra little stab to the male ego that taller men are spared. Even as a child, before I became a small adult myself, I could see that taller adults didn’t treat the small adults in my family quite the same way they treated other, taller grown-ups. This is something I’ve talked to short people about over the years, and I’ve found many who’ve noticed the very same thing: we short folk are not real grown-ups, and don’t need to be taken very seriously. We are not granted the same adult status, and all of this happens in the bigger folk way down there in the subconscious. We are patted: on the back, on the shoulder, on the top of the head. Perhaps we are akin to poodles. We are chuckled at when we’re upset. So many more examples there are of short people being infantilized. And if I have found that attitude extremely infuriating and demeaning as a woman with no fragile male ego issues, how must harder must it be to be a short man.

But on a different level, my father was enormous. His enormity is one of the reasons I’ve never married, though I’ve always wanted to be married. Yes, it’s Freudian, and yes, it’s also to many a tiresome cliché, but I’ve witnessed it too many times to deny its truth:  many people seek out in their spouses a lot of the qualities of their opposite-sex parent. And I fall into that category, though I didn’t become aware of that until I was in my thirties. I was seeking in men the very best parts of my father, and to this day, at this cronehood age of 58, I haven’t found them. Not enough of them in one man to make him someone with whom life could be shared.

Of course, not only the great things about Dad were huge. Some of his flaws were pretty darned big too, and certainly I haven’t been looking for that in prospective husbands. I’ve wanted the flaws to be much smaller than they were in the proto-type. Well, I think anybody would.

Inside, at the part of the self that can’t be measured with a yardstick or shot with a camera, my father was a huge temper, at times. Hugely spiteful and mean, at times. Hugely afraid of certain things, but did anyone but me ever see that? Enormously insecure and in need of ego-boosting, which he mostly didn’t get. Remorse. One of the things I wish I’d been able to do differently while he was still here.

But if he was terribly afraid of some things, and never spoke directly about these “unmanly” fears, he was as brave as Heracles in many others: Physical pain, hardship, deprivation, discouragement, the guns shot from ships’ decks in battles at sea. He wasn’t afraid of hard work. Often when we were young he had his full-time job for the defense department, as well as one or two part-time jobs. In addition to all this he did most of our car repair, most of the remodeling and painting and repairing in the house, took care of the yard, grew a vegetable garden every year, and still made time for many family outings, and to come to our little school performances, and to play baseball in the yard. He had a prodigious memory and a penetrating intellect. In his forties he finally got his GED, and was the top scorer in New England for that particular sitting of the exam. He was devastatingly (to me) musical, could pick up just about any instrument you can name and learn to play it by ear. As a little girl, I thought this was nothing less than amazing. I still think it’s pretty damned great.

My father was a small man. And he was also a very big one. Twelve years gone now, and so much business that was never finished. As with all humans, I cannot have unequivocal feelings about my father. I find people extremely mean and difficult to bear, and he was no exception. All that is truth. But so is the rest: the large excellences of the man who was my father. I wanted to tell him these very things before he died, but wasn’t allowed. Because of the particular nasty dynamics that go on in my family, I was shut out from his dying and from his funeral and from his burial two months later. Shut out of all it. I didn’t get to say those things to him, and now never can. So I say them here, at the twelfth anniversary, to micro-chips and html.code and faceless shadows who might read. Say them, perhaps, to nearly nobody, but to fill, in at least a small way, the need to say them.

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(tapestry & elf at www.gaelsong.com   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(the text is green because this Greek man was born on St. Patrick’s Day. in March he liked people to call him O’Nakis)

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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2009-2011 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.