I dreamed of virtual symposiums when I first created this blog, not the symposiums of academia but those of ancient Greece. I envisioned a social gathering where virtual speeches would be filled with beauty, comedy and drama building to a joy in conversation and in one another. My dream was too grandiose (a failing that often finds me). In fact, it was impossible.
My early journeys in the blogosphere gave birth to my dream. I discovered many stimulating posts. I joined in comment threads hammering out ideas amongst strangers. I met some magnificent people that I would never have met any other way. All that was needed, I thought, was a little bit of tinkering with what I saw on other blogs and I would have virtual symposiums. I would begin each conversation with a post which would serve as a definition of the topic and as the first speech. The comments would consist of speeches growing out of the post. We would discuss, debate, think, feel and grow as we focused on topics like love, life, faith and meaning. My dream seemed so easy to implement and yet it was impossible.
To begin with I discovered a problem with the wine. Virtual wine can’t measure up to real wine. Those ancient Greeks, the creators of the kind of community for which I longed, knew that wine was a part of the experience. Real wine can make the heart glad and the speeches flow. Virtual wine doesn’t do anything at all. I suppose we could, as an experiment, agree to read a blog with some real wine. We might agree that after reading each comment we would raise a glass and toast the moment. Sadly, it doesn’t take too much reflection to see that this would serve better as a picture of loneliness and despair than of conversation and joy. It’s not the wine itself that makes the difference; it’s the wine in the context of speeches, laughter, passion and simply being with one another.
Worse yet, a comments section is at best a poor conversation. I’ve found some rich comments in my explorations of the blogosphere and some exciting threads. In a real conversation, however, we stand exposed before one another and risk at least our reputation when we speak. On a blog we are hidden from one another and risk little. In being virtual our accountability is diminished. Comments can even go unnoticed or become too numerous to follow.
Blogging also seems to entail a view of time that isn’t compatible with a symposium. A blog lives in a multi tasking environment. Time is measured in CPU cycles which are distributed amongst a host of activities. In a symposium all attention is on the topic, the speeches and being with one another. Time is measured by the conversation.
In a symposium, as I imagine it, a topic is approached in hope and expectation. It is believed that the speeches will lead not only to a better understanding of life but to better lives. There is the sense that something new and alive is being created out of conversation. On the Internet, more than most places, there’s nothing new under the sun. The significance of the dialog on a single blog is crushed by the vast volume of dialogs and blogs. Why even try to make a point when the odds are that the same point is being expounded with more proficiency on some other blog? Why write at all when we can search and read?
My dream began to fade. I remained active reading and commenting on various blogs, but I became less and less inclined to contribute something to my own. To write anything at all I must believe that I am part of a real community participating in a real conversation. My dream was almost dead until I made a simple decision. I will write and dream on my blog even though I know it’s impossible. I will dream my symposiums into existence so that I can write and discuss with you my dear readers. For better or for worse, more content is on the way. Like Camus’ Sisyphus, I will write to my blog with a smile.