Quantify and Publicize

On August 29, 2006, I created by first blog post (http://aladdinfoot.blogspot.com/2006/08/). It was a Tuesday. The US president was George W. Bush, the UK Prime Minister was Tony Blair, and Pope Benedict XVI was leading the Catholic Church. The entire post consisted of a picture of me from 1994-5 (thank you, Suzanne Plunkett!), and the line, “Just a pic to show you who’s responsible for this blog.” Exciting stuff.

Why do we blog? Or vlog? Why do I meticulously record every run or walk that I take on MapMyRun? Must my every move be quantified and publicized? How on earth did I ever enjoy my photos before Facebook was there to Like them? Are my own actions like the proverbial tree falling in the woods—silent and inconsequential unless witnessed?

I used to think people living monastic lives were retreating from the responsibilities of the world. Maybe, however, there is value in doing a thing for the sole purpose of doing that thing. Maybe learning and contemplation are not productive in the same way that a factory is, but I find it hard to believe that a life lived well is meaningless just because it isn’t lived in the glare of a spotlight.

Why do I blog? And vlog? And post things on Facebook, Twitter, etc.? To say that’s just the way things are now feels like a cop-out. One of my wife’s least favorite sayings is one that I hear a lot: “It is what it is.” That’s another cop-out. No sound and no fury and certainly signifying nothing.

Why does man create? Men have struggled against time, against decay, against destruction, against death. Some have cried out in torment and agony. Some have fought with arrogance and fierce pride. Some challenged the gods, matching power with power. Some have celebrated life. Some have burned with faith. Some have spoken in voices we no longer understand. Some have spoken eloquently. Some have spoken inarticulately, some haltingly; some have been almost mute.

Yet among all the variety of human expression, a thread of connection—a common mark—can be seen: that urge to look into oneself and out at the world and say, “This is what I am. I am unique. I am here. I am!”

– From the 1968 short film, Why Man Creates by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Shaking My Foundations

"The Shaking of the Foundations" - artwork
milkpaint art by Brian Hutzell

My intent was to blog and vlog every day, not because I think the world desperately wants to hear from me that often, but because I need the practice blogging and vlogging. It’s been hard lately, though, because I just haven’t felt like it, and when I have started to write or record, I too often have been finding myself bitching and moaning about the state of the world, or talking myself from one level of depression  down to an even lower level of depression.

I wasn’t in a great place mentally or emotionally at the start of 2020, but then COVID-19 came along and wiped out my job and two theatre shows I was playing. Then came a series of police killings and the demonstrations and occasional riots that followed in response. Throughout both crises, the lack of leadership at the top has been woefully apparent, exacerbating the situation and turning an already tense time into a disaster.

Then, warming to the task, the universe decided to give me one more smack: A spot of skin cancer was spotted on my leg. The operation to remove it took a pretty good chunk out from just above my right knee. It has been painful, and until today has prevented me from doing much walking, which has traditionally been my primary method of combating depression. In short, things have not been swell.

When I think about my own troubles, however, I recognize that they come off as the whining of a not-well-off-but-not-poor white-privileged guy living in relative comfort, who doesn’t have to worry about many of the problems that beset other groups of people. Acknowledging that doesn’t make me feel any better. It does, however, add a layer of guilt on top of everything else.

Maybe that’s good. Maybe I need a little pain and a little guilt. Make I need to have my foundation shaken a bit (maybe even stirred!) I think of a line from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall: “If I get too mellow, I ripen and rot.”

So time to shake off the dust and get moving. No one except flies and worms likes rotten fruit.