When I began blogging eight years ago, I was quite unprepared for the Internet’s insatiable craving for content. I was accustomed to sitting quietly in my study, unhurried and unharried, writing another book. Only when a book was completed would I venture into the public square to publish what I had written. Because I had all but died to the world, no longer attending professional meetings or giving invited talks, I felt no pressure to produce.
In 2009, my pen had been silent for almost two decades, save for a short book about my experiences in UMass’s Afro-American Studies Department, the endless new editions of a textbook written in the ‘70s, and the unpublished first volume of my autobiography. But with the announcement of The Philosopher’s Stone, I launched into a frenzy of writing on all manner of things, posting my words for all to read virtually as they were written. Over the next two or three years, I wrote about Marx and I wrote about Freud. I wrote about Kant, and I wrote about Hume. I wrote about Kierkegaard, about Mannheim, about Durkheim, about Erich Auerbach, about Emily Dickinson. I wrote on line an entire book about Rational Choice Theory, Game Theory, and Collective Choice Theory. I even wrote about myself, completing and posting daily the second and third volumes of my autobiography.
When I looked up from my keypad, I discovered that I had unwittingly become committed to an endless production of daily short essays, asides, and animadversions at the passing scene. If I failed to post something for two or three days, I would get worried messages from friends and family: “Are you all right?”
I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s ironic and mocking remark in the Preface to The Philosophical Fragments, a work to which I return repeatedly: “It is not given to everyone to have his private tasks of meditation and reflection so happily coincident with the public interest that it becomes difficult to judge how far he serves merely himself and how far the public good.”
For most of my life, words have flowed from me almost unbidden. I leave it to others to judge whether they emanate from a bubbling spring or a suppurating wound. But lately, the endless horrors of the world threaten to make me run dry. Oh, I imagine I shall continue to blog. After all, I seem to have no difficulty finding something to say about the fact that I have nothing to say. But the joy threatens to leave me. In my earlier days, it was different. As Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven.”
Perhaps I should say something about jigsaw puzzles.