I have been a great fan of Shakespeare's Hamlet since I was at
school. I knew the play almost by heart. Most people know only a couple
of lines from it, if any at all, but the line 'To be or not to be' has
entered our common language.
To blog or not to blog?
It's six weeks since I wrote anything for my blog. One person has commented. The frequency of visits to my site has dropped, very slowly, from the grand heights of 16 point something per day to 14 point something per day.
Neither is a very significant figure. Why bother? Why blog?
When Hamlet speaks those famous words, he is contemplating the meaning of his own life, in the midst of profound and deeply disturbed grief. He has learned that his recently-deceased father was in fact murdered, by his uncle. His angst is even more difficult, as his mother has already married the uncle. Hamlet feels called upon, by circumstances and by his devotion to his father, to avenge his father's death.
But Hamlet, sensitive and introspective young man that he is, can see little point in vengeance and questions the moral worth of any further action: indeed, he wonders whether death itself might not be preferable.
What has any of this to do with blogging?
I have no deaths to avenge, though it's true that a lot of my life has been a struggle with grief. But that does not cause me to blog, or not to blog.
I am interested in the 'being' of the blogger.
What is the identity one achieves as a blogger? What is my being, as 'tobefrank'?
I chose the name for my blog because it suits me so well. I am committed to being frank, in the sense of 'thinking honestly about' whatever. And speaking honestly.
I took up blogging as a means of publication. I was persuaded by a colleague, in another internet forum, that this is the way to get lots more material 'out there', to an audience far greater than the means of publication usually available to scholars. It is very hard to get published, and even harder to distribute books and ideas. Blogging is a great way to do it: if anyone reads it!
Two other things occur to me to add. First, I was impressed some years ago by another writer's comment on the word 'publication'. He wrote it like this: public-ation. Here we are making public something, or is it someone?
The demand that teachers publish is the demand to turn their work into a specific medium, for what is ultimately a quite different purpose from our basic motivations as teachers. Teachers engage in a very personal task, of seeking to form and grow the persons who come to them as students. We have an investment in them, and seek to have a relationship with them. It is so alienating when teaching is turned into a factory process. Everyone hates it. This is what is happening to our universities, and it is horrible for everyone. Publication turns the teacher and their ideas into a commodity. It is 'out there', but it is not relational. It is often out there because one does have something to communicate. But it is a very different process. And the person in the publication is a different being. To blog is to be a different person; it is a different presence. Some of us bloggers have also tried the social networks, like 'Facebook'. That's something else again. There, people live their lives 'in public', sometimes in amazingly personal, intimate ways. 'Intimate' and yet 'public'. How does that work?
That leads me to the second thing. Blogging seems to be a demand, to be constant, continuous in supply, or else response ends. I really don't know if anyone reads it, or cares whether I blog or not. Is it really communication, if there is no response? Others, whose blogs I read, could ask exactly the same of me. This is not meant to be a guilt thing, for any of you who might in fact read this!! It's me, Hamlet, thinking out loud about what this is about.
To blog or not to blog. I have to think again about what it means for me. What part of me wants to express myself in this way? Do I have time or energy for this? Does it help me, to write these reflections? I think I have positive answers to all this. Like Hamlet, I might sleep on it, and risk another dream.