May 01, 2010

Digital Samsara

I have been thinking about the future of my writing. This blog is exactly what it purports itself to be – a journal. However, I am thinking it is time for this to change, if not suddenly, then perhaps gradually, as I am changing both outwardly and inwardly.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self,” English literary critic and writer Cyril Connolly warned. Of course, just to be perverse, I immediately wondered, in the Buddhist sense, “What if I have no self?” But I don’t think that was what Connolly had on his mind, and the meaning is well taken.

As a journal, Buddhist in Nebraska has been of enormous help to me. This past year it has been the source of much catharsis and also much focus. When I find myself trying to settle my mind to work, but not yet quite able to dive into my task I will often write a short post. I do not edit these posts, aside for a cursory read for grammar, and only very rarely do I withhold them. Partially, as a result my neurosis is there for all the world to see. There has been a lot of it this year as my rambling have become incoherent under stress. More telling, perhaps, is the narrowing of focus – on me and my daily goings on.

Earlier in the life of this blog I often explored Buddhist topics, usually topics I myself was exploring, but there has been very little of that for some time. I always try to find the dharma in my thoughts and actions, but it is not always as explicit as it has been. I have not been reading my dharma books; I have several on my shelves barely touched, aspirations more than inspirations. As one who loves books so this nags at me as disrespectful, as though the books themselves demand to be read and I have turned my back on them saying I have no time. It is the same with magazines, blogs, podcasts, and other sources of the dharma.

Also, for the past two and a half years another love has gained a growing role in my life – the Daily Nebraskan. Through my weekly column I seek to persuade, entertain, and provoke thinking within my readers, but that seems to be all the extroversion and coherency I can manage in my writing while also under this level of stress. The dharma is almost always present in my columns, but also almost always subversive. The remainder of blog posts have been fairly egocentric as a result of spending an increasing amount of time at the paper both as a columnist and now editor. (I love being an editor because I get to teach and help other writers.)

And it strikes me – unless you know me personally, these posts may not be of best use to you. In fact, one of the most common entrances to my blog remains to this day a post from October 10, 2006, “Inherent Existence.” I was trying to figure this topic out myself and so, apparently, are a lot of other people. It is the number one Google result and number eight Answers result when you type those two words into a search. (At least on my Google, and I’ve wondered if their lovely algorithms aren’t tailoring my result, but other people do apparently find their way to the blog via Google.) The most recent comment for this post was left on April 9, 2010.

After the main page, “Inherent Existence” is the most common entry point to Buddhist in Nebraska by far. Thanks to my site meter, I can track such things as entry pages, visits per day, referrals, and the geographic location (non-specific) of readers. For example, someone recently found their way to the blog by typing “Buddhist string” into Yahoo! and hitting upon my post “Ball of String” from May 2009. I am also linked to by a number of writers in the Buddhablogosphere, for which I am eternally grateful and somewhat puzzled.

I am puzzled because I generally do not consider myself a great source of Buddhist wisdom or even experience, being more or less isolated from sangha and teacher, only marginally by geography. In terms of “Inherent Existence” I can only hope I got the explanation right. At least, no more educated teacher has commented with a rant about leading seekers astray. Yet.

However, one thing is also clear. In the last year, readership has fallen from over 800 unique visitors a month, always a modest number, to just over 400. Which supports the supposition that my stress-fueled egocentric meanderings are not the most helpful to dharma seekers.

I am shortly to embark on a significant change in my life, not least of which because I will be leaving Nebraska. ("Dear Nebraska: It's not you, it's me...")

“I am glad to hear you like your soon to be fellow chaplaincy students since you will probably be seeing a fair amount of them. That is assuming the college is going to let the likes of you in. Someone should probably warn them about you. :P” my brother lovingly wrote after my return to the prairie states. (He’s not wrong. Someone really ought to warn them. I am not always the easiest of students to have around.)

So as I change and as the focus of my life changes from architecture to chaplaincy, I expect my writing will change too. I also intend to seek more balance. I am certain I will end up working just as hard, but I am hopeful the struggle will die down. The blog may move to a new address, one appropriate to a new focus, but worry not, I’m sure there will still be enough neurotic rambling to go around. Change is constant, after all.

The wheel of dharma turns even in digital samsara.

1 comment:

Teacher Jim said...

You might change the title but leave the site at it's current url because, no matter where you go, you will still be that Buddhist from Nebraska. And I'm sure that fact will color your writings, even if you're basking in the warm sunshine of California. [smile]

And, as far as the 400 current readers, it's about quality of the readers, not the quantity that matters. [smile] I rarely look at my blog statistics anymore because I'm baffled by the numbers - I mean why would so many strangers want to read my site?

Anyway, I'm fortunate to have found you on the internet and consider you a friend. And I'm sure there will be others in the future. So, keep on keepin on with the writing. Oh, and don't forget to finish that book!