I’ve been hors de combat for a few days, still not fighting fit but enough sometimes to let my fingers walk across a keyboard. It’s time to explain what’s going on here at Wayfarer’s Notes. Some weeks ago I realized that its words, reader comments, links and pictures belong nowhere else but here. No e-book, no anthology in paper or hardback.
I’m slow to grasp what may be obvious to others, ever proceeding * by trial and error, obstinately persisting in mistakes.The fool who persists in his folly, that’s me. It’s the only way I know, but seems to work in the end.
Just as man and all his fellow-creatures evolved specifically to live in the climates and land-masses of Earth, to migrate, mingle and multiply on terra firma, so did these writings evolve as a blog, discrete pieces each written to stand on its own, published across intervals of time. Occasionally they’ve reflected the seasons, or even world events; but I don’t see them as being anchored in time, merely parts of an ill-defined whole. They are rooted where they are: any attempt at transplant will only denature them. Why bother to migrate? Hannah Arendt asked a similar question, when space travel became a possibility:
The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition, and earthly nature, for all we know, may be unique in the universe in providing human beings with a habitat in which they can move and breathe without effort and without artifice. †
There’s vanity in being a book-writer, I’ve not been immune to it, and see no reason to call it a vice, but a legitimate spur and provocation to take up one’s lance, to joust at the lists, or vie for a place on the best-seller lists. There’s ambition: to be rewarded for one’s labour with a bid for fame or fortune. Maybe a shot at immortality, a means toward the denial of death, as I proposed when reviewing Ernest Becker’s book of that name:
. . . he succeeded in repressing death himself, by attaining personal distinction, proving superiority to the others and attaining a kind of immortality. What else is a Pulitzer Prize? ‡
I prefer to be realistic, and admit that I do this for immediate satisfaction. One committed reader is spur enough. Failing which there’s my own self.
I’ve loved printed books from an early age, sometimes in loco parentis, when left with them in lieu of a baby-sitter. They have a longevity which we mistake for permanence. They have a physical presence: you can use them to decorate your walls, recall their content by scanning their spines. And then again, there is the Internet, accessible from a small device which can fit in your pocket. I imagine it’s here to stay.
So, having decided to stay here, on this WordPress blog (just as Karleen and I have long decided to stay here, in this house, this neighbourhood, these Chiltern Hills), the thing to do is to improve the place and make it more welcoming. It wasn’t till I’d transferred every post, plus many illustrations and comments, into a single formatted Word document§, that I started to grasp a clear sense of its existence as a kind of unity. There are certain themes which run through its lifespan. They are its life-blood. They convey meaning and intent, as veins on a leaf convey water and nutrients, rising from the roots of a tree through myriad capillaries.
I’ve never been constrained by any sense of what this blog is supposed to be about. It’s always arisen from the urge to write a post, in the context of this moment in space and time. The topics have been innumerable, but after all these years I’ve realized there’s no need to index them, when you can search a word or phrase. Come to that, WordPress offers the option to feature links to related posts, determined without human intervention.
Recently I set up a “console”¶ showing a set of themes which in my judgement have permeated the writing of every post since the first in April 2006. They weren’t consciously chosen, but discovered retrospectively. Together I think it’s fair to say they are the reason I write. They link my life in an Ariadne’s thread of meaning. Until I started, I had no idea where my thoughts would go. Following your nose like an excited dog takes you places you might not reach by other means. When you have no plan, and go where the feet take you, or let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard, you find answers to the question “Who am I?”. This gets us to the heart of true knowledge, as opposed to the hearsay we are taught. Ramana Maharshi says it’s the only spiritual path needed. When I know who I am I can be it more single-mindedly, not waste my life trying to be someone else. Nor should I side-track myself into pursuing any other ambition. Let my loyalty be to the moment. There can be nothing more strenuous. The reward is freedom. Everything else is escapism.
Freedom allows us to start again as often as we wish. As I proposed in a recently updated post ^, true learning requires us to set aside preconceived ideas, and begin afresh. Every day a new beginning.
* in “Adaptation”
† from her prologue to The Human Condition, 1957, quoted in “Hannah Arendt on Action”
‡ from “The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker”
§ 2,500 pages, 682,000 words, 416,000mb. Couldn’t upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing. It frequently crashes during updating. Compared to the native blog, it’s riddled with compromises.