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