Today I came across the term lifestream — “a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline” — and decided that I like the word but dislike the concept. The idea is to blend all of one’s separate online activity streams (Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, WordPress, etc.) into a single stream, often on a platform where no comments are permitted. I’m not sure I see the point of that. A blended feed might make sense, but is anyone really so into me that they don’t want to risk missing a single thing I do online? I sure hope not! I’d much rather have highly discriminating fans, who might only subscribe to my occasional satirical posts, for example, or who might visit my Flickr photostream or the Plummer’s Hollow blog and never even look at Via Negativa. So I’m tickled to be picking up a few unknown “followers” on Twitter who are presumably only interested in my daily quickies at The Morning Porch. In the pre-digital age, desperate poets resorted to megaphones in the public square; now we can infiltrate the mobile phones of strangers.
Unity and consistency are temptations we’d probably do well to resist. A friend recently criticized qarrtsiluni for publishing too many hymenoptera in a row — my fault entirely. My poetry mentor, Jack McManis, edited a magazine called Pivot for a couple of decades, and one time he shared with me the secret of how they decided what order to print things in. “I take the whole stack of poems and throw them up in the air,” he said, “and then pick them up without looking at them. That becomes the order for the issue.”
“I learned long ago that writing — the outward form of my thinking — is the best means I have for discovering how the various separate and confusing threads of my life actually relate to each other, and how they weave together to form a whole cloth,” Beth writes in the latest post at the cassandra pages, entitled Change — a stirring defense of the blog medium. My own post was already three-quarters complete when I got bored, clicked on my feed reader, and saw hers. There are always other streams, aren’t there? Why obsess over unity? Just today Peter of slow reads and John of slow reading discovered each other, and it’s like they’re long-lost blogging twins.
The blog or journal is, actually, a mirror of that movement through life that I observe in myself — neither like the geese flying across the still photograph, nor like an individual being standing motionless while life swirls around her — but rather the sense of myself as a moving, mutable being who exists in inner and outer worlds that are also in states of constant change. Seen in that way, the “self” doesn’t exist; it cannot be fixed. We humans spend much effort trying to deal with our discomfort about that dual movement, attempting to fix ourselves in time or trying to find ways of convincing ourselves that we won’t someday stop while time continues without us. So we write books, paint paintings, take photographs, build buildings; we have children and fixate on our belief that they represent a continuation of our own animation; we construct religions and place our hope on immortality.
I couldn’t have said it better. (Be sure to read the rest.)
Sometimes I’ll spend half an hour looking through a magazine or browsing a well-illustrated blog and find myself getting depressed, because every last picture has people in it. It’s not that I don’t like people. In fact, I believe strongly in the agora and the souk, and the ideals of conversation, hospitality and exchange that they represent. But any place where you can’t get out into the country within an hour’s walk feels very alienating to me: too much otherness, too many strangers. The streets and subways are rivers of humanity in which one can never fully relax. I find it desperately sad that, for a large percentage of the world’s population, escape from other humans and from human-dominated landscapes is nearly impossible.
During the last half-dozen years my dad worked as an Arts and Humanities librarian at Penn State’s Pattee Library, he had the unpleasant duty of finding a certain number of subscriptions to cancel each year in order to save the library money. Librarians refer to any regularly issued publication — a journal, magazine, newspaper, newsletter, almanac, annual report, or numbered monograph — as a serial. So my dad was a serial killer. Streams do run dry.
Speaking of the Morning Porch, I’m looking for an artist willing to colloborate on the tumblelog version, with an eye to eventual tree-flesh publication of some sort. Drop me a line if you’re interested.