We live in an extraordinary time of rising global wealth and the things that greater wealth buys access to—like communications, health, and travel. Our nature being what it is, “nobody’s happy.”
Or more to my point here, it seems like most of us aren’t generally taking advantages of access to communications. In the course of human history, being able to mass produce paper (rather than handcrafting it) is still pretty new. As recently as a few hundred years ago. So part of my motivation for writing in public isn’t that I think everything I have to say will be meaningful, but because I feel like I have some obligation to make use of the communications platforms afforded to me. Particularly a platform I control, that’s non-contingent.
I think about how much I wish I could learn about the day to day lives of my own older family members or ancestors—imagining what they would have blogged about life in a war or on the farm or coming here in the first place. We generally don’t have any of that, and given the platforms we have today, it feels right that we should make an effort to write in public.
I believe in “writing in public” is also worthwhile as a way to think aloud and share perspective and experience. Of course, there’s a lot that gets left unspoken in public. That’s as it should be. But I also think that before most substantive conversations happen in private, things first have to be thought through and brought out a bit as a jumping off point. In my own small way, that’s what I’m trying to do here. If public writing isn’t animating private conversation, I’m not sure there’s a point.
Relating to public writing informing private thinking, I like Wilhelm Bendz’s “A Smoking Party” (which appears with this post) and “Finck’s Coffee House in Munich.” They depict the set-aside places and occasions that can be created for thinking, listening, and talking things through friends, neighbors, and strangers.