Fri 15 Jun 2012
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
– MacBeth, Act 5, Scene 5
it doesn’t matter, of course.
it is only a website and if i am not here it is not the end of the world. i tell myself this.
it’s just a website. a collection of digital words and images in a genre that’s been declared regularly dead for the last four years. dead like the squashed slug on the bottom of my back steps…except, unlike the slug, the blog has a whole Jesus thing going on where it regularly resurrects itself.
or at least quietly continues on, dead or no. i like that about blogs. dead is just a state of mind.
i repeat this to myself as i stare at the trail of ants marching back and forth around the slug’s worldly remains, efficiently erasing all trace.
it’s only a website, i mutter. and dead is just a state of mind, anyway.
i look around and wonder if i am my own set of ants.
once upon a time, if you wrote something, you knew when you were done. the story or the book came to an end and then – if you were very very lucky – it passed the sanction of the gatekeepers and went off to the printers and that was it for that particular tale, that voice, at least until the anniversary reprint edition or the sequel.
print media have an inherent finite quality. they create artefacts, discrete objects. books can’t be 73,000 pages long. you run out paper, of arm strength. you are bounded by physical constraint.
digital media have no such clear lines. i’m in the midst of writing about this, on my theoryblog, for the Reading in a Digital Age class i’m teaching this summer. i’m in the midst of writing a bunch of things, one of which is my long-suffering and increasingly long-overdue thesis proposal. i’m writing all the time.
but i’m not writing here.
at the end of April, i marked Finn’s birth and death here, as i have every year but the first. i didn’t write of him that first year. the blog was three weeks old. Oscar was eight days new and still in the NICU. my very first boyfriend – he of the first sloppy kiss by the bricks out behind the junior high – had just died of AIDS. he was thirty-five years old. his funeral coincided with what would have been Finn’s first birthday.
i was so full up with life and death that everything was dust in my mouth. i sat at the hospital computer and opened up a post window and closed it again. i was not certain, yet, that this was a place i could speak of anything beyond the platitudes of baby poop. i left the hospital for an hour or two, with Dave and my mother, to dig and mulch Finn’s trees. i went back to the NICU to feed my baby. while my friend was laid in the ground, i sat in a hospital rocking chair, my shirt lanolin-stained and my fingers dirty with soil, crooning OMD’s If You Leave to Oscar. it was the best i could muster, for all of them.
that dust is gone from my mouth, now. i have written it out. and that voice has been precious to me. but this year, in the post for Finn, i said “there really isn’t anything else to say, anymore.”
and i realized that that i do not know what to do with this voice.
if this were a book, i would simply say done. rest now. and i would close the covers and feel immensely satisfied at a chapter closed, a piece of life’s work done, and proudly.
but if this were a book i would have said nothing yet because it would still have to go through the gatekeepers and the editors and there would be no thousands of comments and conversations and networks formed here over years, no traces of friends found and since gone and i would be the lesser. and i know it.
yet i think i am finished speaking in this voice. i think i am finished with this story, this piece of the narrative. i think its hour upon the stage is done.
i do not want to mark another birthday.
this August, in NYC, i’m lucky enough to get to host a BlogHer panel entitled Blogging for the Love of It. and i do love blogging, dead though it may be.
but i do not know what to do with this one.
it is only a website, i tell myself again, but i shake my head. i know better.
part of me shrieks RETIRE IT ALREADY BEFORE IT WITHERS! DON’T LET IT DIE OF NEGLECT! KILL IT! KILL!
another part of me recoils and throws my arms around this space as if it were a living thing, because that’s what it’s been, to me: a voice, a network of relationships, a narrative, a precious, tenuous growing thing. an artefact, yes, for my children. but so much more. in the grand scheme of things ever written, a tale told by an idiot, indeed. but to this happy idiot, a life’s work. or at least the beginning of such. an enormous, beloved chapter.
i do not like declarations of done-ness. i am not done with the network, the relationships, the people. i’ll be around, on the theoryblog, on Twitter, in the too-many places i’ve had the privilege of stretching to.
but this voice has dwindled to a whisper, and it occurs to me that in this digital age of infinitely expandable and reproducible and extensible creativity, perhaps what we miss is the built-in sense of knowing when to stop, of being pulled up short and silent by physical constraints. i cannot run out of paper, here.
maybe i wish i could. it would be easier, that way, to say fini.
here, all i can say is see you around. and xo.