Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Goal's Beyond

John Milton, we all know, wrote Paradise Lost "to justify the ways of God to men." My goals in Textuality are slightly more modest than Milton's but exponentially more important: I write to explain my ideas and opinions to my children. I write to my wife, my brothers, my parents, my friends, and to anyone else who may be interested.

How many of us know what our mothers and fathers truly feel and think? How many get the chance to see the world through their eyes and approach ideas the way they do?

My goal for this blog is to make this knowledge and sight available to my loved ones, should they ever want to explore. I want them to know what I think and why. I want them to understand what I think, even if they do not agree with the thoughts. I want them to know that I think. I want them to realize that I am most comfortable writing and considering ideas.

I started Textuality in 2005, following the painful but necessary abandonment (temporary, it now seems) of my dissertation and my aspirations for doctorate in English. At that time, my aims for the blog were to to continue working, informally, in textuality:
This blog has been initiated and inaugurated to serve as a forum on textuality. Specifically, it is intended to support the analysis and understanding of current events, issues, and debates from the standpoint of textuality.

As I understand textuality, it is the quality possessed by a tangible thing of being a text. To proceed further, a text is a tangible thing – such as a piece of paper, a book, a Web page or Internet site, an onstage or onscreen performance, a painting, a sculpture, a building, a location in nature, and so on – that is understood to be or to be comprised of one or more signs. Signs may contain one or more signifying elements, but their referents are conceived of as statements of thought intended to be communicated.
I had hoped to build a site that would become the foremost authority on textuality. In practice, however, I used the blog as a diary. The personal and rather whiny nature of the blog during these early days was one reason (there were others) I took the pseudonym "Larry Tanner," a nickname someone gave me in college. Recently I have flirted with the idea of "coming out" and using my real name, but I already have other blogs under my real name. "Larry Tanner" has become like a separate identity, and I enjoy playing this role. So for now, the pseudonym stays.

Early on in the life of the blog, I seemed to lose interest. In 2006, I posted only one entry, and it was a personal disclosure:
It's almost been one year since I last posted here. Let's see: one child, two marathons, and some marital beauty and ugliness later, now I'm posting again.

I don't know why, exactly, I would even think of coming back. I'm struggling with something. I'm just not satisfied. I'm losing confidence and feel like I'm running out of time.

Hmm ... isn't this kind of what I said last year too?
The post above sounds rather bleak and self-chastising. I do that much less now, for whatever reasons. I remember some of the days of 2006. Our family was strapped for cash, stressed with the new baby, dissatisfied with my workplace, bewildered by my wife's depression, and dealing with my dislike of the wife's new church. We had issues, then, but we also had lots of happiness and love, too. In any case, I suppose my attention was best directed elsewhere than the blog.

Although I posted intermittently in 2007, the great change for Textuality came in 2008. Precipitating the change was my accepting a ghostwriting gig. As I began the gig and the writing involved, I did not foresee any shifts in my personal views but I did sense trouble between my author friend/employer and myself:
In the writing, I am finding a lot of passion and struggle in myself. It's good, I'm learning a lot and swaying between almost complete atheism and firm religious belief. It's interesting. There are just so many great perspectives available online. I am glad that I am able to be swayed. I am not an easy sway, but my openness is partly what makes it all work. Now, it could be that my author is not happy with what I have drafted. If that's the case, then we surely will not be able to work together.
Partly as a result of this gig, I took sides in the larger cultural squabbles concerning atheism and religion. I posted a big admission in November of 2008:
Do I believe in G-d? The answer is no, but it’s not an unequivocal no. It is a no of belief: I do not feel sure enough to have the scales tipped toward faith. I have little confidence that I ever will...and I am OK with this.
The character of my posts changed slowly. Throughout 2008 and into 2009, I was writing reactive stuff: I'd read an article or another blog post and then respond. I don't think I struck upon a clearer identity for Textuality until October 2009, with one post on Bob Dylan and another on the debates of atheists and religious believers.

With these essays, I brought out (at last) my full voice. I sought to make my points personal, original, unambiguous, and unfiltered. I tried to quote liberally and in context. I wanted to work through quotes slowly, patiently, and in detail. I aimed to have posts work as part of a larger, ongoing conversation between myself and the world.

In July of this year, I thought I'd exhausted my thoughts on atheism and religion. I intended to post mostly on Walt Whitman to find other topics of interest. I said then:
I have interests in addition to Atheism that deserve fuller and more sustained expression by me. I want to explore other aspects of this wonderful world, such as the poetry of its people, the conflicts of its nations and civilizations, and the endeavors of its animal inhabitants.
This statement remains true, even if I have not done as much about it (so far) as I might like. Indeed, recently I've been quite focused on topics in and around atheism and religion. Yet I've been generally pleased about the posts on the Kuzari Principle and on ultimate meaning.

One day, I hope to gather maybe 25-50 posts, organize them, and self -publish a book of the best and most enduring posts in Textuality.This book will be for the kids, mainly, not for sale or money. My focus today is on addressing topics that interest me but that also allow me to express ideas and opinions I haven't said before.

I have much, much more to write in this blog--about atheism, religion, family, aging, poetry, jokes, work, politics, and more. I anticipate the days and years ahead. Perhaps a post already written or yet to come will serve as pre-text for one or more face-to-face discussions with my children and/or with my wife.

This is a core element of my thinking: anything I write should have an application in real life. My blog life as "Larry Tanner" is a reflection and premonition of the life where I am interacting with actual human beings in real space-time. I would never want a blog that was all and only "in" the blogosphere.

I expect that if I keep up with Textuality, it will continue to morph. After all, I am still growing as an intellect and as a person, and I have much to explain and share. I cannot say whether the future will be good or bad. I hope it's more of the good, but who knows? The writing is part of what I can do. Textuality is part of my pro-activity.

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