Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Perils of Blogging

When I began this blog in July 2007, I told four people about it. Two of them were friends of long standing, who had seen me through the darkest and most disorderly days of a life darker and more disorderly than most, as well as the dramatic re-conversion to the Catholic Church that I experienced later. Another was related to me. I never anticipated having a readership larger than a small handful of people who knew me intimately, and who I thought would be amused by reading my occasional thoughts on music, aesthetics, and faith. After a couple of months, I invited a few more close friends to read this blog, including Dawn Eden, who, to my surprise, posted a broadcast about its existence to her readership. While I have to admit that I found this new attention upsetting at first, it has gained me some wonderful readers, and even some real friends. On the other hand, it has also created certain attendant problems. What started as, essentially, a diary for a few close friends has become a more public journal. Where, before, I left out the backstory to my posts' subject matter -- not naming names because there was no need to; my readers knew what I was talking about -- I later had to be vigilant about not writing in too much detail about people, places, and events, in order to preserve the anonymity of the innocent as well as of the guilty.

Radical Catholic Mom's comment on a recent post has gotten me thinking about this blog and its origins. It struck me that the pro-lifer who told RCM's friend "you women need to repent for the rest of your lives" (though it may be true) did not know the circumstances that led to the friend's tragic choice.Really Rosie has told me that she thinks the content here has gotten blander in the wake of what she calls the "character assassinations" left in the combox during the pre-election season. I'll admit that I was deeply hurt, and even haunted, by the viciousness of some of the commenters, particularly those who appeared to self-identify as faithful Catholics. While I think readers are perfectly justified in arguing about the ideas they find here or elsewhere, I do not think they are justified in assailing the essence of the person writing them, unless they know that person in real life, and well enough to have some understanding of the basis for that person's ideas. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church cautions,

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it.

I see this rush to condemnation as an understandable defense on the part of those frightened by a world where everything seems to be quickly going off-kilter. But, dear readers, let it be said here that my only wish for this blog, and it is a fervent one, is that someone might find here some small thing, some shred, of hope or beauty.

I've often wondered about the real ability of the repertoire that I have performed to help listeners toward a deeper experience of their humanity. How can it be that some of the darkest pieces, even those that wring tears of real sadness from an audience, can also leave them feeling exalted in the end? The truth is that sometimes we have to touch upon, even delve into, the darkness in ourselves in order to heal it. In the course of a concert, the artist can, if it's a particularly good night, lead the audience through a small healing.

Rosie has said that she misses the introspective blogging about the interior life that has been previously featured on this blog, and perhaps I will take that up again soon; right now, although my dissertation has been successfully defended, I'm still quite busy making edits against the deposit deadline, as well as getting used to a completely different way of life in my new city. In the meantime, I will hope and pray that this blog might one day be a vehicle for someone's small healing.


Anonymous said...

...that someone might find here some small thing, some shred, of hope or beauty.


I understand how a negative experience can obscure many positive ones. I've only been visiting a short while and will remind you that I've commented on a few shreds of beauty and hope. I've seen and appreciated more than I've commented on too. So, be reassured.

I've been meaning to ask you about penitence in general. I thought once you went to confession and did the penance the priest prescribes, you are done. Someday perhaps you can elaborate.

my verify is 'bitich' btw

Pentimento said...

Dave, thank you. I"m really glad to hear that. I think you missed flying fur a few months ago.

As for penitence, you know, I think some people are drawn to it more than others -- St. Francis of Assisi, for instance. The penance the priest prescribes in Confession is supposed to make your peace with God, though God's forgiveness is gratuitous. But there are some sins, I think, for which it's nearly impossible to make one's peace with *man* in this lifetime, because they cause damage not just to the sinner, but to society as well. For me, finding a way to bring healing where I've brought damage, insofar as it's possible, is paramount.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

"Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.

Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).

The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart[The motto under my blog title]. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!"God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:

Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance."


So it seems to me that interior penitence is necessary for ongoing conversion, and it's a lifelong process.

Thomas Tobias D'Anna said...

Thank you for showing the hope for restoration and grace is not an abstract wish but a reality through Christ and His Church. You have my prayers this Advent.

Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

This post has been a "vehicle for [my] small healing." Thank you.

Still much penance to do... I thank God for the chance to do it.

Pentimento said...

Toby and Joshua, thank you and God bless you.

Maclin said...

I was pretty baffled by the scathing attacks, or what I saw of them. They provoked the "back away slowly" reaction from me. Anyway, you can certainly count me as one who finds hope and beauty here.

Totally off-topic, because I never got around to commenting on the post, I was something of an Odetta fan in my teens. I had an aunt and uncle with decidedly unusual musical tastes for white people in the south in the 1950s/60s. Later I didn't care as much for her style, but what a voice...

Kyle Cupp said...

How can it be that some of the darkest pieces, even those that wring tears of real sadness from an audience, can also leave them feeling exalted in the end? The truth is that sometimes we have to touch upon, even delve into, the darkness in ourselves in order to heal it. In the course of a concert, the artist can, if it's a particularly good night, lead the audience through a small healing.

Yes. Perhaps a reason for this is that we experience or feel hope strongest when faced with hopelessness. It's strange, but the music, literature, movies, etc. that I often find the most hopeful and spiritually healing are the darkest and not always those with a happy ending. Even in the midst of despondency I can still hope, and there is the gift of grace in that, I think.

Pentimento said...

Kyle, this is what gives me hope that God might bring something good out of me. Though my past has been mostly dark and disorderly, the reason that I write about some of it here is that I suspect there may be a thread of redemption that could give hope to those who are discouraged.

Maclin, I was particularly shocked and upset by the personal email I received from my former friend, which I described a while back in your combox. I'm reasonably sure, judging from certain things she wrote, that one of the recent attackers on this site was a friend of his. This all happened right before my dissertation defense. I showed the personal email to Dawn, who's also a former friend of our former mutual friend (I suppose the prevalence of "formers" says something here), and she suggested that the timing of these communications might have been used by the enemy to throw me off (my dissertation is about, among other things, the reappearance of the ancient Christian belief in the possibility of total moral regeneration for sinners; as my commenters have reminded me, our culture no longer subscribes to that belief).

I agree with you about Odetta: voice, yes; style, not so much. I wondered what you thought of that clip from the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.

Maclin said...

Actually, I hadn't listened to the clip--I read the post at work and don't usually watch videos there. But now I have, and it's great. I grew up hearing (and I suppose attempting to sing) that hymn.

The Odetta song I remember most is "Water Boy." I don't think I have more than a few tracks by her in my collection--those few are on a folk anthology from the Vanguard label, which carried the cream of the crop in those days. I think "Water Boy" may have been on one of the two Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall albums which are among the very first music I can remember really listening to--I guess I was 12 or so.

Ol' Tennessee Ernie is not too bad, either. I don't think I've so much as heard his name for many years.

Pentimento said...

The version of "Water Boy" that I know is Paul Robeson's - haunting.

Anonymous said...

My blog was begun as an experiment in ideas accented by personal experience but posted anonymously. Only a handful of people in my county know I blog at all.

Oddly enough, when I blog about my faith and the complexities of living it in modern society, I get to interact with this group of friends I've never met face-to-face.

Nonetheless, having written in a personal journal for twenty years, blogging is a different bird. My journal is too personal. For everyone I would like to show my journal to, there are a million I fear might see it or ridicule it.

What I can say is that occasionally in my journal I write something worth reading, and it is those sorts of writings that I hope to post on my blog, though I must admit that I myself grow bored with my own blog sometimes.

Pentimento said...

I don't keep a paper journal, and usually just write a blog post when something is preoccupying or engaging me and I want to talk about it. This worked better when four people who knew me intimately read my blog, though.