April 13, 2010
‘To blog or not to blog,’ or perhaps it should be, ‘A blog in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ or perhaps even… ‘A blog a day keeps the doctor away.’
It is very difficult to understand the sudden take-off of the blogosphere, or to discern if there is any kind of core value that links all bloggers together. What is it about the relationship between the individual, the internet and the untyped page that is so attractive to the potential blogger? Is it the immediacy by which one can communicate with others who share the same interests, or is the desire to prove another wrong (and ourselves right,) that truly dominates?
To some Kabbalah is mere superstition, to others it is a worse form of hocus-pocus. Yet, in many contexts it can still be applied with an intriguing degree of relevance and precision. Personally, I have always enjoyed a fascination with some of Kabbalahs aspects, the characteristics and connotations of the individual Hebrew letter’s being one of the main attractions.
It is this characterization that provides an insight into the mentality of blogging. A quick (and I accept arguably questionable,) transliteration of the word into Hebrew leaves us with the root letters, Beit, Lamed and Gimel. In Hebrew Beit is used as a prefix to describe something being within something else. It’s kabbalistic connotations are similar, Beit is often used to refer to a house (or other building.) Blogging, similarly is an activity that characteristically takes place in the home. Like the Kabbalists who also endow Beit as a representation of the spiritual qualities manifest within an individual, the holy part of a person capable of delivering good deeds, Beit as a component of B-L-G suggests an individual can bring out their good ideas through the medium of blogging. Through employing their voice, they can transmit their ideas from the capsule of their own home into the greater world, from within their own mind onto the computer screen and then on to the world.
Lamed is mainly associated with the values of teaching and learning. Blogging, effectively is about putting forward one’s point of view, in a desire to educate and convince the reader of a perceived ‘truth.’ Lamed, when spelt in its full form, (L-M-D,) was described by Rabbi Akiva as short for the phrase, ‘the heart that understands knowledge.’ This notion is paramount in the world of blogging, the simple act of bothering to log on and read the writings of somebody one may not necessarily agree with is absolutely integral in the search for wisdom. The heart must desire to seek further knowledge and must also know how to process and understand much knowledge. It is these cognitive and computational abilities that grant humanity it’s prowess in science, philosophy and technology. This desire for progress is echoed in the blogosphere, ideas replicate, split and bounce as they are put forward and then dissected by members of the community. This discourse is an essential precursor for development and progression. Organisations such as TED and Wordpress are precise proof of the need for discussion and debate, without prejudice or powerplay, before a society chooses to take a unilateral and uncompromising position on a given issue.
Gimel, is perhaps the most interesting inclusion in the B-L-G root. Unlike the previous two letters which have quite obvious potential associations with the world of blogging, Gimel seems somewhat indirect. The values of Gimel are often described as association between the concepts of punishment and reward. Blogging however, appears at first to be untied to either of these notions. Blogging can be done anonymously, therefore there is rarely a possibility that a controversial blogger will actually face any physical threats or any real sense of ‘punishment.’ Similarly, most bloggers are not paid, therefore the possibility of reward cannot be looked at from the individuals level.
The reward and punishment connotations must therefore be looked at from the standpoint of the greater society. Blogging enables those living in unjust societies to report their stories to the wider world. Furthermore, it enables the disenfranchised living in just societies to share their experiences too. Blogging provides an outlet for those coming to terms with their social or sexual orientation. It fosters development of thought and intellect through discussion whilst encouraging the clarity of thought granted by the catharsis of writing. Blogs have enabled closeted gay man to communicate their struggle to others who have lived through the same thing, abused spouses can seek advice and document their experiences and political exiles can communicate with followers back home. The punishment and reward of blogging therefore cannot be viewed in physical or economic terms but by the manner in which blogging enables the establishment of self-supporting networks and communities. These groups and individuals who have experience of the same troubles and can therefore assist others who are suffering in similar situations. This is the potential reward of blogging.
The flipside is the punishment, and like with all in this world we have been given free choice. Blogging enables us to link people up, rebuild fractures in society and put a little bit more ‘Tikkun Olam’ onto the web. However, it also allows those who choose too to celebrate hatred, spread divisive and dangerous ideologies and form their own self-supporting communities. This is the potential punishment of blogging, the possibility that haters are able to mythologise their malcontent into legitimized discussion. Blogging has given us a choice, for good or for evil, for better or worse. As this Kabbalist interpretation concludes, blogging is the learned voice that cries out from the heart. It may be a cry for progress or a call for destruction, for the world a potential reward or alternatively the seed for destruction.
It is up to us what we do with ideas.