3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
This is a meditation on blogging. I take as my inspiration the immortal passage from Ecclesiastes because it expresses so beautifully what Erik Erikson, in Childhood and Society, called the life cycle.
Once I was young, now I am old. Once every idea was an illumination, every book an adventure, every argument a call to arms. Now, each idea echoes with a lifetime of reflection, each book takes its place in the bookshelf of my mind next to countless others remembered as old friends, each argument brings the weary thought, “Have we not yet settled that old fight?”
Each book I have written is forever marked by the moment in life’s journey that I had reached as I wrote. In Defense of Anarchism is a young man’s book, a gauntlet flung in the face of overreaching authority. Moneybags Must Be So Lucky, despite its provocative subject, is a mature reflection, rich in attention to irony and metaphor and the literary shaping of thought.
When I was young, my university lectures were studied, neatly outlined, presented as though carved in stone. But as I grew older, more and more often memories, stories, allusions to matters far afield would creep in, until now, I am as garrulous as any old man sitting by the fire and remembering earlier days.
When I retired nine years ago, I launched this blog in an effort to continue a lifetime of teaching. At first, terrified that my active life had ended, I plunged into a lengthy autobiography and then into a series of tutorials, mini-tutorials and appreciations so extended that very soon I had written more than half a million words. But blogging is unlike teaching. It is lonely, impersonal, episodic. There are no faces, no eyes widening or narrowing, no sense of the passage of human time. Each post is, as it were, born yesterday. I recall with longing the master classes I have watched in which an old cellist or violinist listens to a young, eager aspirant and breaks in from time to time to shape a phrase or correct a bowing, offering his or her lifetime of experience to help the young student transmute notes into music and music into art.
To be sure, through a blog I can reach in one day more minds than I would have encountered in a decade of teaching, but how much more satisfying it would be to sit quietly and talk with just one or two, shaping a thought, offering a phrase, drawing a parallel with an old memory and seeing in the eyes a flash of understanding, a realization of possibilities newly opened.
This is what the young Marx had in mind when he wrote so beautifully, in the fragment on alienated labor, of the way in which the capitalist organization of the factory routinizes and dehumanizes the natural human activity of collective production. I fear the Internet is the factory of the mind.