Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When It Comes to Politics, All Is Vanity

The writer of Ecclesiastes (about whose identity there has been much scholarly dispute) lamented that “there is no new thing under the sun” (ch 1, v 9). He has searched out wisdom and has carefully observed “all things that are done under heaven.” From this he declares concerning all worldly pursuits, “behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (ch 1, v 14). (Scholars tell us that the terms “under the sun” and “under heaven” should be understood to mean “worldly” as opposed to spiritual matters.)

In recent weeks I have done more thinking about why I write a blog. I write about various topics — whatever interests me at the moment. But for the nearly five years that I have been blogging I have tended to write more or less about political matters.

Sometimes I write because I think I have something to say. But I find that most of the time, I write to explore what it is I really think. It has been an evolutionary process. Occasionally I will read an old post and realize that my understanding has changed since that time. Other times I will read a past post and think that it states the matter better than I think I could write it today.

There is no question that I write mainly for my own benefit. I’m not doing this as a public service. I do it because it pleases me to do so.

My posts usually draw few if any comments, and that’s fine with me. If you want to reap lots of comments on your own blog you generally have to sow seeds by copiously commenting on other blogs. That works best when you can regularly devote concerted time and effort to keep the comment stream fresh. I can only sporadically put time into blogging. Sometimes I can put in a few minutes for many days in a row. Other times I can go days without having time to blog.

The blogosphere consists of many online communities that gel through comments. I am sometimes amazed at the amount of time some seem to have to comment as broadly as they do. Occasionally I envy those that earn a prominent place in one or more blogging communities. But then I realize that I deliberately choose to devote my efforts elsewhere and that I have little desire to do what would be necessary to play a larger role in any online community.

I appreciate thoughtful and substantive comments on anyone’s blog. Too many comments across the blogosphere come from cyber bullies with abusive tactics, snipers that shoot from the hip without seriously considering the content of the post, and those that appear to simply be involved in debating contests where the game is more important than the content.

I find myself mystified by those that habitually visit blogs to repeatedly state their opposing viewpoints, apparently unaffected by arguments made in the post. They write reasoned responses that are always based on the same handful of points that ignore or disregard concerns that the original blogger deems to be of central importance. Some do this to the point that it comes across like someone incessantly pounding one or two keys on a piano while ignoring all the other keys. Perhaps these people view this as a form of evangelism.

Lately I have noticed a number of instances that I have begun to fashion a post in my head only to drop the idea. As I have pondered this phenomenon, I have realized that several factors have been at play. I think that I sometimes realize that I have nothing new to say about the matter. Or to state it more accurately, I find myself developing no new understanding from the effort.

Sometimes anticipation of the type of comments a given post is certain to invite turns the whole process into a joyless exercise. If it brings me no joy and/or seems meaningless, I see no reason to do it.

At the moment, I find myself somewhat burned out on politics. The more I recognize that politics is itself a business that delivers services for gain, the more jaded I become. Every bit of political news or commentary I encounter lately causes me to lament with the author of Ecclesiastes that “there is no new thing under the sun” and that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

We’ll see what this means as far as political blogging. I might get fired up and write a political post tomorrow. Or I might take a break from such activities for a while.


Charles D said...

At this time of year especially, perhaps you should take to heart Ecclesiastes 8:15 - "Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry..."

Unknown said...

I hear you, Scott... (perhaps too obviously!)