So, yeah, blog posts, the lack of, apologies for. If I was trying to make myself seem interesting, I would claim it’s all the result of a deep existentialist crisis, but it’s not, not really. Things have been a trifle…odd, mentalismically speaking, but not in an especially negative way.*
It’s basically a question of things returning to normal at the end of the traditional winter clusterfuck, and, as is often the case, the return to normal is in many ways more disorientating and disturbing than just staying fucked. Specifically, at the moment, I’m experiencing that thing where, as my mood starts to scrape off the seafloor, my emotions become rather mercurial and random. In other words, I sometimes feel almost cheerful, and then at others the depression comes crashing back (which is truly horrible; I can cope with depression ok – hey, I’ve had enough practice – but getting depressed is something I still struggle with). I have also been having some issues with frustration of late, if by frustration we mean becoming incandescently angry over trifles; luckily I have managed (so far…) to keep this from spilling over, either in real life or on the blog. But all of these, uncomfortable though they may be, are signs that my mood is shifting, and given where I’ve spent the last ~5 months (metaphorically: at the bottom of a deep, dank well, with the merest glimmer of daylight shining in at the top of the shaft for a few minutes on a good day…), this has to count as A Good Thing.
I’ve also been having a bit of a crisis of confidence vis-à-vis the blog, and specifically what it’s for these days. I know these crises are a regular occurrence, and I’m sure you’re fed up to the hind teeth with me wittering on about them, but I still have to plod through them, and misery loves company, so I’m sharing. I’m generous like that.
Anyway, to try and make this as brief as possible, and sparing you the long hours of staring at a blank screen interchangeably weeping and smacking my forehead off the desk:
- I remain persuaded that I don’t want mentalism to be the main focus of what I do here. If I’m going to put effort into blogging, I think it’s more sensible for me to concentrate on feeling and thinking normal, not feeling and thinking odd. (This isn’t meant as a criticism of anyone else, or what they do on their blogs, it’s just about what feels right for me at this stage.) And, in any case, I’m not medicated, I’m not under the care of a psychiatrist or a CPN, and I’m not regularly being picked up by the police for Acting A Bit Weird, so, realistically, how mentalismic* can I actually be? In other words, mentalism will, I’m sure, remain part of this blog, but hopefully as background and subtext, not as foreground and…er…text…
- Writing about stuff that actually matters remains problematic. On one hand, I’m very interested in all sorts of ‘hot button’ topics; I have opinions about them which I think make sense, which I would like to persuade other people to share, and which I’m not entirely terrible, I think, at explaining and justifying. On the other hand, I’m really too fragile to cope with the possible consequences of posting on these kinds of issues on a regular basis. I know that sounds pathetic beyond words, but unfortunately posting about things that matter acts as a trigger for anxiety and paranoia, and they’re omnipresent enough already without giving them extra opportunities to come out and play. This is something I regret, really quite a lot, but – Gallic shrug – what can you do? In other words, I can’t turn this blog into a full-on political/ social/ media commentary blog, though I hope these will continue to be part of what I do.
- At the risk of sounding vain and bumptious (never!), my reasonable level of intelligence and my curiosity about all sorts of different subjects are two of the things that I value about myself. Since I am one of those people who only really understands something by trying to explain it, this blog is, or, at least, has the potential to be, fairly important to me exploring my intellectual interests. And I also think this is an area where I can put my abilities (such as they are sorry, I need to ditch the cloying modesty; it’s meant sincerely, but it reads as fake, I think) at explaining and justifying things into use. In other words, finding non-important but still interesting things to write about is quite important for the long-term future of this blog.
- Which leads rather neatly on to this bullet point, because one of the problems I have, particularly when I’m not in the most together of mental states, is thinking of something to blog about. Topics either seem interminably dull, or impossibly complex and daunting, or I just can’t think of anything at all. In other words, I need, if I can, to find a way of automatically generating interesting, but not important, topics for blog posts that are also intellectually challenging, but not so intellectually challenging they feel too vast and daunting for me to get a handle on.
That’s an awful lot of different things to balance, so I’m quite pleased that I’ve hit upon two strategies for just such an automatic (or, at least, easy) generation of blog topics.
The first idea is really just a pale imitation of this blog. That guy is reading, reviewing and ranking all of the books that featured in Time’s list of the greatest 100 novels since 1923. That’s a little hardcore for my purposes, and in any case I wouldn’t want to absolutely steal the idea (especially since there’s no way in hell I could hope to do it as well), but it occurred to me that I could do a cut-down and altogether less challenging version of the same thing. So, in that spirit, I’m planning to read at least one new book a month, and write a brief review/ appreciation (or hatchet-job, if necessary) of what I’ve read here. My idea is that they’ll be books that ‘stretch’ me, at least a little. I’m currently about 2/3 of the way through Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, so I’m proposing to make that my first book; I hope the post about it will appear in the next 7-10 days. I’m not 100% sure if I will be able to sustain the pace, particularly once we start to get back into the dark autumn and winter months, but I’m going to give it a go.
The second idea is perhaps a little more ambitious. Michael Sandel teaches a popular course in political philosophy at Harvard university, ‘Justice’. Extended highlights of the lectures were broadcast on BBC4 earlier this year, but the whole 12 week course is available from this website. I’m not proposing to do it absolutely properly – I’m not going to read the set texts for a start – but my idea is that I’ll watch each lecture, and then try to post a brief summary together with my responses. It seems as though the course tackles some fairly interesting ideas – finding the balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the wider society, for one – which I’ve already done a fair amount of thinking about, so I’m hoping I might be able to string together some semi-coherent sentences. You’ll notice I haven’t put a frequency on how often I’ll be doing these posts; I hope to post them at a rate of at least one a month, but I also think there’s a chance I might be able to progress a little more rapidly than that. Time will tell.
So, there’s that. I don’t want you to go away with the impression that that’s all this blog is going to be about from here on in. I still expect to find room and time for the inane chunterings and witterings you’re already used to, and I still expect to be posting about things unrelated to either of these ideas that catch my attention. The point isn’t so much to change what this blog is about, as to give me some ‘free’ topics to write about. I’ve been keeping this blog for a little over three years now, and this is just a way of trying to keep things fresh for me, and so, hopefully, for you. If I don’t shake things up, I think there’s a danger this blog will just wither and die, as quite a lot of blogs seem to be doing right now – so long, Cellar Door! – and I’d like to avoid that if I can.
Right, off to start prevaricating and postponing, and never actually getting round to any of the things I’ve said I’ll do…
* – Mentalismic, adjective: of, or relating to, the condition of mentalism; “As someone who is three sandwiches short of a toolbox, Aethelread sometimes displays mentalismic behaviour”. –adverb: Mentalismically.**
** – Sorry about the mentalismic thing. It seemed funny at the time…