No, not from me.
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I don't have anyone in particular in mind today. Ever since partway through my last pregnancy I've had trouble putting my butt in the chair long enough to produce decent blog posts at a decent clip. I managed to blog about our European adventure reasonably well, but I've gotten out of the habit. Or into the bad habit of throwing things up on Facebook, and then being rid of them and going blithely on my way.
I bring this up because... lately whenever I read some well-meaning mother blogger bemoaning how blogging is actually a Bad Habit that is taking her away too much from What Is Really Important, and she's really going to shut down the computer and go play with her kids, well, I've lost patience with it. Not going to nod and say "I know what you mean" or "Good for you" any more.
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I mean, you do what you have to do, or what the Good Lord is leading you to do, by all means. And sure, it's possible to make an idol of anything -- all can be done to unhealthy excess, including cooking fresh meals for your family, reading great literature, getting vigorous exercise, washing your hands after going to the toilet, and giving to worthy causes. So yeah, can one blog too much? Assuredly.
But. Blogging as general bad habit that represents, by default, a retreat from the three-dimensional world, a failure to connect with real human beings, and an unhealthy choice to chronicle life rather than experience it? Especially for mothers of families?
No. Not playing along with that implication anymore, ever.
(I promise to keep my mouth shut about it during the three days before Lent starts when everyone logs on one last time to explain why they are giving up blogging for Lent. It's a perfectly fine thing to give up for Lent, because Lent is a time for giving up legitimate pleasures and taking on voluntary sacrifices. But other than that? Done.)
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Personal blogs are nothing more, and nothing less, than a modern combination of three very old concepts.
(3) Philosophical treatises.
The third category probably needs little comment from me, so let's turn to the first two.
Diaries and letters are of incalculable historical importance. And they are especially important in the historical assessment of the lives of women throughout the ages. Often it is letters and diaries that provide us with the clearest glimpse into the day-to-day existence of real human beings in that faraway country, the past.
In the case of women, we're talking mostly about women of the intellectual elite, for most of history: wealthy women who enjoyed the privilege of education, or cloistered women. But not always, and less so as time went on and society cast a wider net from which to draw its literate citizens.
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Texts sent long-distance from one person to another, and texts sent back in reply, have been an established means of carrying on significant intellectual discourse since long before the mails were anything like reliable. And we possess evidence of this, in the form of the physical texts that were physically sent from one place to the other.
In all cases we take these letters as evidence of connection, as something that mitigated isolation or prevented it.
We have letters to and from St. Hildegard of Bingen: women such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, and men such as Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote to her seeking advice and consolation, and she wrote back.
We have letters of Hrotsvit, a tenth-century nun, who put the letters as prefaces to her volumes of plays and saints' lives, the result being that her audience is "her readers:" she would never meet them nor know their names, but she wanted to address them with a kind of apology and explanation of why she phrased things the way she did.
We have many letters of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who wrote on matters both practical and spiritual, corresponding with both men and women; and including a number of "circular letters" addressed to the other Visitation Sisters as a group.
We have the letters of Queen Caroline of Ansbach, who was undoubtedly a busy person but who must have regarded her correspondence as a vital part of that busy-ness, as she kept up a lively dialogue with philosophers, physicians, and politicians as well as other royals, and served as a mover of public opinion -- for instance in her carefully researched and highly publicized decision to have her children inoculated against smallpox.
More recently we have the letters of other public figures. One of my favorite volumes of letters is The Habit of Being, gathered from Flannery O'Connor's correspondence; but while O'Connor's letters are a good example here, let's remember the women who wrote to her, too -- in particular Betty Hester, whose identity was preserved only as "A" until recently, and who exchanged hundreds of letters on topics personal and spiritual with O'Connor over nine years.
Furthermore we have preserved the writings of many women because of their correspondence with historically important men:
-- We have a reconstructed letter from an otherwise unknown widow named Hedybia, who wrote to St. Jerome (right to the source, so to speak!) with a list of difficult questions about events in the Gospels.
-- We have the letters of spiritual direction of St. Francis de Sales; many of his correspondents who wrote to him describing their situations and seeking guidance were married women, women who had busy lives, children to educate and households to run. I daresay it was the vicarious experience that St. Francis acquired through acting as confessor and spiritual director to so many worldly, married, busy women that gave him the insight necessary to compose such a practical work as Introduction to the Devout Life, which advises the busy person living in the world on how to put God in first place despite so many duties. Indeed, the Introduction is written in epistolary form to "Philothea" -- and there was a real "Philothea," Louise de Châtel, Mme. de Charmoisy, whose correspondence with Francis de Sales led directly to the saint's composition of this classic of spiritual direction.
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We do not say of Queen Caroline, "She neglected her household duties and her social obligations by constantly writing." We do not say of Betty Hester, "If only she had not spent so much time scribbling letters to celebrities, think how much farther she might have gone in her work." We do not say of the women writing to their spiritual directors, "All that navel-gazing takes the mind off of the really important things." We do not say of St. Hildegard, "If she hadn't spent so much time chronicling those visions of hers and recording them for posterity, maybe she would have been able to really experience them to the fullest."
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This is how we connect now.
Yeah, I have dozens of Facebook friends too, and they can't all be my besties.
And they're not. You know they're not. It's the same with you.
There are a handful, though -- some who read and comment on my blog, some who write blogs I read daily, some who exchange emails with me, a few of the people that I check in with several times a day via Facebook.
You know who you are. Hello, friends. I've "exchanged letters with you" for years now. I've "kept up a lively correspondence" with you. I've sought advice, consolation, spiritual direction. I've written treatises in response to your inspiration, and I've made queries that inspired treatises from you in return.
Blogs for sure -- but even Twitter and Facebook and whatever comes after those -- I know I am really connecting with real people. Yes, I have a family. Yes, I have responsibilities. You have jobs and I have jobs. And yet, making time for each other to meet one on one -- it's not just allowable; it's good. Intellectual life is not something we must fit in the crevices of our "real" lives. It is in some ways the realest life we have, the life of human beings being human together in the world of knowing and expressing.
So, no more apologies. I'll stop my ears, until you have something more important to say.