Pushing Thirty

and shedding pretentions

Fool’s Gold

It should come as no surprise that I agonized over the title of my blog. This isn’t my first blog and the first was shipwrecked more or less over issues of Title. When the enormous pressure of gathering together all of my thoughts heretofore beneath a single banner confronted me, I didn’t fare well. I went Latin, and not Latin like Ricky Martin, but Latin like Catholic Liturgy. I called it “Ipsum Audite,” a title from an obscure verse reference that I got from a book. I wanted to write about the nuances and perils of modern Christianity, and I didn’t see this as a light topic, one that could be peppered with pie recipes and sports banter. I intended to dispel with a Title any expectation of reading about my favorite latte foam or random thoughts about life distilled from the current weather I was experiencing. I would have done well instead to have borrowed a title first penned by Dante: Abandon all Hope all ye who Enter Here. (He imagined these words were posted at the gates of Hell.)

What followed was some astringent prose, witty only if you spoke several languages, and fresh only if you were taking a break from reading a Biochemistry text book. My first post was called “Shedding Cartesian Skin.” My favorite post was a Haiku about a Messianic Jew who once played back up harmonica for Luke Wood. My wife said my blog was boring.

When I took my wife’s advice and lightened up, things changed a bit. I inserted an anecdote about a conversation my wife and I had where she wixed her mords up and came up with a cute new word that made us laugh and laugh. My readership tripled overnight. I was beginning to see the light. In an effort to reinvent myself and my blog, I decided to change the title to something more light hearted. Maybe I could engage in serious theological commentary while periodically coming up for air to show my humanness, my every-man appeal. I changed the title to the whimsical “I Should’ve Bought a Honda” and posted a picture of my Dodge Neon as the header. The throwback to Charismatic Christianity (ask a Holy Roller if you don’t get it) mixed with sheer quirkiness proved to be a great blog title. Things chugged along for a week or two.

But then something struck me: not only did my new title change the future content on my blog, but all of my old pretentious content, now grouped in this new lighthearted category, was cast in a new light. It was as if what was formerly pretentious was now facetious. I had miraculously transformed my blog into a satire of my theological side that took itself too seriously. Suddenly my Haiku wasn’t obscure, it was absurd! And words like “Cartesian” were enjoyable if you read them tongue-in-cheek and with an elbow jab to the ribs! Around the same time I wrote my most popular post yet, Coda, and discovered an M.O. that both communicated my deep sentiments about something dear to my heart, yet without the putrid aires that made my other posts so difficult to read. Was it the title that made this offering now acceptible? While I wondered, my readership soared.

I decided to do some experiments. I had fumbled upon a sort of alchemy that could change my writing, and wondered what other shades I could color my former posts. I had visions of a blog with posts that must be read over and over, their content never changing, but with a shifting title that continuously reinterpreted their content. Just like it seemed my attitude towards former events was never totally consistent, so could I bring my blog current with my vision and interpretation of things that had happened. I could cast my Haiku in crimson or chartreuse depending on my mood– could that harmonica anger me? or was it deeply sad? was it both, depending on the day?– like the lights on a stage. I changed the title to “Shudder but a Hunter,” a nonsense phrase that both echoed the previous title yet invoked a postmodern uncertainty about the nature of meaning in general. But this was too vague to be entirely useful.

And this is when I discovered the power of the subtitle, a secondary phrase that helped interpret the first. I remembered a Kerouac novel that I never finished, Visions of Cody, and how he had tried to reinterpret a character from another book by another name. It seemed just the thing I was reaching for, so I added the subtitle (in all small letters) “visions and coding” partly because of the novel, partly because of the vision, partly because of my most successful post to date, and partly because it insinuated that the aim of my blog was (now) to present my anecdotes and situational ironies of life in one way only to continually recast them in new ways and deliberately (yes! on purpose!) translate intelligible into nonsense and vice versa (more Latin!) at my very whim. To wield this awesome power was to go from cognizant to visceral understanding and bring readers into my ideas in the most authentic way ever invented.

My readership plummeted.

I saw that I would have been better off with the Latin. I never really recovered a foundational trust from readers to make them visit my page. It’s been months since that debacle of an experiment, and I’m ready to give it another go. I can’t say I’m ready to write about lattes, but I have discovered a title that I think will do just fine. And if I by content stray from it, the fabric of the blogosphere won’t suddenly dissolve: instead the meaning of my title will simply be stretched. And that requires me to rethink about the nature of Titles in general, but maybe the answer is that titles of blogs are not like the titles of novels, and maybe in addition to writing a blog I should write a novel. I’ve always wanted to do that too.

At any rate, the main title needs a little explanation, and you can read about it here. And for the subtitle, shedding pretentions, I hold its meaning to be self evident at this point. So if you catch me lapse into the practice of talking to hear myself talk, you may understand that this is a process, and one that is being recorded. If you catch the throwback to my very first blog post, good on ya, but I hope more that you catch that it is a sort of apology, not without a cringe, and a realization that I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. After all, what has been written will be written, and to writing there is no end. Welcome to my blog.

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June 17, 2008 - Posted by | journal, writing

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