Thursday 5 July 2012

Words, words, words: F&T seven years on

Whoops! I started this blog on a whim, and it looks like it's been going for seven years now. Seven years! 

So I've just spent a few minutes glancing back over the archive – all those posts, all those opinions, all that writing. Looking back over it, I had a sinking feeling. 

Who wrote all those thousands of posts, and why? Why is this person so opinionated about everything, including things he knows nothing about? Why is he so quick to brag about the things he knows and so careful to conceal the things he doesn't? Why is he so dismissive of some people and so effusive towards others? And why does he write in this manner? All that pseudo-poetical posturing? All those dubious jumbles of metaphors? All those excitable outpourings of adjectives? Why is he never content just to state a thing plainly and be done with it? What is he trying to prove anyway? And to whom?

And why has he so painstakingly, so fastidiously concealed the real issues of his own life? His frustrations and disappointments, where are they? His anxieties, his doubts, his shame? His anger, especially with himself? The restlessness and hurt that he carries around with him – why has he disguised all that? What is he trying to bury under all those words? And who is he hiding from anyway? Only himself? 

Sifting through the rubble of words, I also noticed a few things I really liked. Some things were well said, and I'm glad somebody said them. Whoever wrote those bits, I rather like him. But I don't recognise him. I am trying to recall what might have motivated him to write like that on those rare occasions when he actually did write well. Was his thirst for affirmation so strong at those moments that it produced, of its own accord, something worthwhile? And even those best moments (I see now, embarrassed) are not half so good as they must have seemed when they were being written. All the excesses, the mistakes, the lack of discipline, the egotism – it's frightful to have to witness it.

But I'm making a mistake. I am talking about writing as if it were a thing in itself, a fixed object, a school exercise composed for an impartial examiner. When all along what this blog has brought me is friendship – the good and pleasant society of other people. 'Words, words, words' – they are very sociable things really. That's what good about them.

I remember now why I started writing here seven years ago. I was working in a tedious job, I went to a tedious church, I lived in a tedious city, and for the life of me I couldn't find anyone to talk to about the things that really interested me. One day on my lunch break I started writing, in the modest hope that someone might reply. I was like the castaway who rolls up his letter and puts it in a bottle and throws it away.

I wasn't disappointed either. Looking back over those 'posts' – all those letters in bottles adrift in cyberspace – the surprising thing is how many answers have come back, and how many friendships I've enjoyed as a result. The business of life is to acquire friends; and, as it turns out, a blog is one excellent way to go about it. It is surprising to think how big the cast of characters in my life has become, and how small it was before.

Forget about the writing, then. Perhaps it was all a mistake; no matter. I believe in the forgiveness of sins, otherwise I would never have the courage to write anything at all. 'We are beggars, that is true' – every paragraph proves it. And even if it was all a mistake, even if every word was wrong, I am glad for all of it when I think of all those friends I never would have had otherwise. (For instance: what could be more ridiculous than to go through life without knowing Kim Fabricius? What would be the point of a life like that?) I suppose that's what grace is all about. Not that your failures are erased, but that your worst mistakes become, by a mysterious providence, the source of all that is best and happiest in your life. You write badly, all the time, and as a result you get some friends.

So I roll up this note too, and shove it in a bottle for the waves. Why not? If I ever look back on these words one day, I suppose I'll be displeased and wish I'd never said it, or had said it better, or whatever. But perhaps someone, somewhere, will find it washed up on the shore. Perhaps they will open it. Perhaps they will answer: another friend!

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