The path that was never ment to be tooken

Archives are a funny thing. As I mentioned back on January 3rd, Via Negativa does get occasional comments on older posts. And despite the likelihood that web searches account for the largest single group of visitors to this or any blog, it’s always a bit of a shock to realize that posts one thinks of as existing in the past are still quite present.

It would be interesting, as an experiment, to design a blog with no time and date stamps at all, and a completely randomixed archive. The links from post to post would work the same way as those “Next Blog” links on the top bar of Blogspot blogs. Instead of a “Recent Posts” link list, the sidebar would feature a random list of “Other Posts,” and the front page would display a single post from the archives that would change every time the page was renewed. When you wrote a new post, it wouldn’t be singled out in any way; there’d be no pinging, no feed. The search bar would be the only way to find a particular post.

That is, in fact, the kind of website I used to fantasize about creating back in 2003, during the nine-month gestation period for Via Negativa, when all I had was a lousy Geocities site. I still think it would be a neat way to share a large collection of poems: curiosity would keep people clicking, and the inevitable repetitions of some poems would encourage re-reading.

This would also be a good way to display a sacred text, wouldn’t it? There are already those who treat Google as an oracle, or who use random selection software for a cyber version of stichomancy. So the internet is already a source of revelation for some. I figure it’s only a matter of time until some whacked-out newage prophet decides to try and harness that vatic power for some revolutionary new covenant between humanity and the spider-god of the web.

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Yesterday, my post on mushrooms from last July received this delightful comment from Anonymous:

Shrooms are the best shit u can have. Thanks to them I am able to see the future and know what lies a head. I have seen humanity rise and fall many times but in the end it does not matter for what reasons that we face now and things that we ignore will haunt us for our lives, for there will be consequences for every action done or word said. There is no hope but only hell to come all to have fallen victims to the ways of the path that was never ment to be tooken, those that sleep for eternity will once rise and except whats coming to them for they know but did not act, all is well that ends well, for those that ment good.

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10 Comments


  1. Interesting ideas… abandoning the strict chronology of a blog might have some merit. What if a randomizing algorithm was introduced, so that someone who clicked on the blog link would see a randomly-selected post from the archives? Perhaps the most recent post could be the one “on top”, and the following posts would be a different selection of past posts for every visitor.

    Funny comment you quoted! I once was rather fond of the ‘shrooms the commenter was no doubt referring to!

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  2. What if a randomizing algorithm was introduced, so that someone who clicked on the blog link would see a randomly-selected post from the archives?

    Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Not even putting the most recent post up front! Chronology would be unimportant.

    For one thing, it would probably make us a lot more cautious about what we posted. With every additional post, you would diminish the chances of anyone landing on any particular post. Post a photo of your cat, and you make it a little less likely that a random reader will see your immortal verse. (Of course, there are some bloggers whose cat photos are much more interesting than their poems.)

    On the other hand, without that sense of excitement that comes from the inducement of seeing what’s new – what’s news – who would read?

    I once was rather fond of the ‘shrooms the commenter was no doubt referring to!

    What? A musician using drugs? Unbelievable! Next you’ll be telling me about writers who like to drink.

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  3. Yeah. After all, my little mp3 has a shuffle mode. It takes me out of the equation. It’s the closest I can come to tickling myself.

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  4. Regarding computer divination, Unix has offered an I Ching program since at least 1985 or so.

    The idea of a randomizing presentation is interesting, but I’d also want to see some sort of structure among the pages… perhaps “trails”, tags, or cross-linking.

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  5. Wow, i didn’t know the I Ching had been online that long!

    You’d at least want to have tags, yes. Maybe also lists of related posts at the end of each.

    It’s the closest I can come to tickling myself.

    An apt image!

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  6. but about the path not tooken…

    I found this both poignant, prophetic, and rather touching. Goes to show that you don’t always have to have a complete grasp of standard English, to wax poetic.

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  7. Ooops! One of my paths not tooken was the one where I fill in my name so this guy ‘Anonymous’ doesn’t get credit again for my posts.

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  8. you don’t always have to have a complete grasp of standard English, to wax poetic

    That’s certainly true. And quite often, a good grasp of “proper” usage serves merely to turn one into an insufferable pedant.

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  9. I read “the path that was never meant to be tooken” note last night somewhere in the midst of reading some environmental stuff online. In that context, it struck me as rather ominous. Today, something about it made me think of the lyrics for Sympathy for the Devil.

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  10. Yeah, you can definitely take it both ways. I used to listen to a lot of death metal back in the late 80s/early90s, so i guess i have a high tolerance for cheesiness in doom-and-gloom messages.

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