19 May 2022

The blogging rules I usually break

Finsbury Circus Gardens ... a nice place to take a break while blogging.

On Saturday, two days from now, I'll be one of the three bloggers participating in a panel that is part of the annual meeting program of QUIP—Quakers Uniting in Publications. The panel will be hosted by Natasha Zhuravenkova of Moscow Friends Meeting (and on the staff of Friends House Moscow). The other panelists will be Robin Mohr of Friends World Committee for Consultation, and Nancy Thomas, poet, theologian, and historian.

The most important part of the "Friendly Blogging" panel presentation, from my point of view, is what you and other participants might want to ask us or advise us. We have some starting points for our contributions, as shown on the programwhat are the joys, sorrows, motivations, and effects of blogging? How to keep a blog engaging, revealing and safe for years to come. In correspondence, Natasha also asked us a question which I find particularly chewy: How can an introvert be a blogger?

One question that Natasha kindly did not ask was "What blogging rules do you usually break?" I wish I had put that question in my readers' survey! (More about the survey below.) In any case, I have my own somewhat sheepish list....

Old templates (2004, 2007).
  • My posts are too long. According to blogging wisdom, this very post is about to exceed the advised limit!
  • I don't consistently focus on one theme or niche. What does Quaker theology have to do with Russian politics or blues?
  • I don't pay enough attention to design elements. Not enough photos, bullet points, or other elements of visual interest. It has been about twelve years since I even changed the template!
  • One list of blogging rules says Get personal! That's easier said than done, especially in the tiny Quaker world where what I say about myself and my experience may affect directly implicate others. However, I confess that I love reading other people's personal stories, so I do push myself from time to time. And, thank God, Judy is a great storyteller. No wonder her guest posts consistently outrank almost all of mine!
  • I don't plan ahead. Most of my work writing a blog post happens on the Thursday of publication, which means that I rarely allow myself enough time, for example, to ask permission of others to quote them. As a result, a lot of good material doesn't make it into my posts. (But they're already too long....) And I spend 90% of my blogging day fact-checking, and searching (usually in vain) for the perfect visual elements for the post, and 10% actually writing.

Despite all these defects, you are here! Believe me, I'm grateful.

This is a good moment to report back on the readers' survey I mentioned above. I got 21 responses, which is too few to make statistically valid generalizations. However, many of those 21 came with fascinating and instructive feedback, so here goes:

Here's the full survey (unfortunately, some answers are clipped short in this format, but you can usually guess the missing bits, and many are quoted in full below)....

Among the open-end responses, I particularly appreciated these:

The themes and topics of most interest to you are: (check as many or as few as you want)

  • There's nothing I would omit as long as you trust your Light about what to post
  • Any topics you touch upon.
  • All of it.

My comment: Take that, you one-theme blog experts! (I seriously cherish the implied trust.)

In the future, I should ... (A question about whether the blog should continue. This is post number 974 today, so I'm tempted to ask, "Would a thousand total be a good number to retire on, God willing?")

  • Trust your Light. If you need to lay it down, lay it down. If you want to publish individual sections as their own posts on an irregular schedule and maybe think about a keyword schema....
  • How are you led?  I'll read most of what you blog on and all that you tweet in English.
  • Do you want release?

I'm also curious about these points....

  • The posts are exactly as long as they need to be, and you should continue to share your musings without concern about heresy!
  • Too much policy :))) I prefer you to be a speaker of Christianity, which is too far from policy, sorry
  • Not enough heresy., Ha ha, just kidding
  • Sometimes I love the thematic range that you work into a whole post. Sometimes I wish for pieces that stand alone. 

My comment: That last point mirrors a process that sometimes happens when I write: At some point I realize that the post has grown beyond itself, so to speak. I then face a question: do I edit it into more than one post, even though the same impulse drove the whole thing, or do I swallow my doubts and keep it all in one? Sometimes I answer one way, sometimes the other. Thanks for the perceptive observation.

How many blogs do you read? (Most respondents chose from the ranges in the survey, but some added comments.)

  • There are too many wonderful things to read and too little time. I click on a link when I see it and have time to read.
  • I basically don't follow blogs.
  • I read a mishmash of blogs, twitter, and email lists so I have no idea what would be helpful here

You wish I would ...

  • ...better explain the reasons you choose to be a Quaker - for those who does not. But maybe I missed these post or they were published a long ago?
  • Write more about Q universalism & /or non-theism
  • See my comments above. [Trust your Light....] Do you have an anchor committee? Sometimes the process of how Quakers support ministry interests me and occasional reports on how this works for you might be of interest to others.
  • I look forward to your blog each week. You are truly looking at injustice with Christian eyes instead of faux-Christian words that are really political. Giving a Russian perspective helps with a vision of greater breadth. I like both yours and Judy’s personal stories. I know it is a lot for you but you are providing a needed service.
  • Become Quaker Dictator For Life...   but...  it's clear you're never going to... so I had to let go of that...

My comment: That first observation, that I should do a better job of explaining why I choose to be a Quaker, is just. I probably said something about that in these past 18 years, but now I think I need to do a fresh job. Thanks very much for the idea! To be continued....

Beethoven 7.2, "a prayer meeting in A minor."

2,000 years ago in the midst of the brutal Roman occupation of their homeland and the violent Zionist uprising, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth asked him how to pray. He responded with the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer of gratitude, devotion and forgiveness, a response to the turmoil of his time.

200 years ago Ludwig van Beethoven responded to the defeat of Napoleon and his oppressive domination of Europe with the completion of his 7th symphony in 1811. Most of the 7th Symphony evokes a jubilant celebration with “dancing” rhythms and melodies. The second movement, the Allegretto, is more metaphysical and prayerful. At the premiere performance in 1813 the audience demanded that the Allegretto movement be encored immediately, and it has remained internationally popular ever since. 

This piece was conceived, written and recorded as a prayerful response to our trying times. 

John C Peterson MD (Doc)...physician, composer, arranger, performer (all instruments), co-producer; Nick Melander...digital consultant; engineer, co-producer; Cynda Williams...actress, vocalist, soprano vocals; Amanda Hummer...actress, vocalist. alto vocals; Kyle Ivy...percussionist, vocalist, tenor vocals; Craig Priebe...retired vocal music professor, bass and baritone vocals.

How politics poisoned the evangelical church: the very opposite of disinterested journalism, and the more powerful for it. I would love to believe our Quaker churches are immune from this poison, but I doubt it. Even if we all fell on the (to my mind) healthier side of this divide, do we just accept this alienation from our brothers and sisters? Do we fall victim to yet another brand of elitism? Even so, I get very weary of dealing with still another way of completely misrepresenting the Gospel!! The recent tragedy in Buffalo shows us the stakes.

Roger E. Olson remembers a different era.

Abu Aram v Ministry of Defence: another case of Israel v international law, another lamentable loss for law and for justice.

Taj Mahal and another amazing transcontinental band (and just count the islands) in Playing for Change's version of "Queen Bee" ...


Unknown said...

Have read your 'How politics poisoned the evangelical church' with interest and dismay, even if it must be the tenth or twentieth such article I have reead this year, and even if I would remove the word 'evangelical' from the title - it is poisoning also the RC and Orthodox churches as well.
If I am honest, I am as worried for the future state of Europe (and of the world too) as much by the current 'fascist' mindset in the US as I am by what is happening in Russia/Ukraine.

Johan Maurer said...

I too have read a number of articles along the same lines. And of course, just a few years ago we witnessed the breakup of our old yearly meeting, aided by rhetorical crowbars that were related to trends and tactics in the Atlantic article. As you probably realized, I linked to this article, not because of its novelty, but because of the writer's perspective -- not writing from a cold, removed place but from inside the phenomenon he's describing.

One of the things I wonder about: how many people in our communities are NOT polarized, are instead somewhere in the middle, but silent and passive, perhaps just trying to live their own lives faithfully but not getting counted or noticed? Are they not even seeing the hardening lines on either side? Is it a sin to be that unobservant, if such people exist, or should I remind myself that I'm temperamentally a political scientist and most people aren't, so stop worrying so much?

However, I can't shake off the feeling that this polarization and truculence will have a harmful impact on those who haven't noticed yet, to say nothing of the impact on more vulnerable communities.