I NEVER LIKED THE IDEA OF BLOGGING in the beginning. There were just so many bloggers with opinions – refined, helpful, angry, vengeful, eloquent, hate-filled, noble, empty – that I just wanted to live my life purposefully and leave the words to others.
I turns out I was wrong. I was an MP at the time and my staff said they thought my ideas for humanizing politics might help the overall political structure. It turns out that blogging actually saved me. It’s tough to find an audience for political respect and honour in Parliament when it’s a 24-hour contest. But I soon learned that the real audience was out in the country, not in Ottawa. People were desiring more, something meaningful and hopefully effective. I opted to title my blog The Parallel Parliament because I believed that in each of our communities, good-hearted citizens were trying to win democracy back from its excesses and top-down controls. The response to those posts validated my hunch.
People blog for diverse reasons. Stephanie Nielson likes how it uplifts her sense of possibility: “I finished the blog post reflecting that, despite all the changes in my life, maybe I wasn’t so different after all. If I type it, maybe I could believe it, too.” That makes sense. This is how many of us reach for the “better” in life.
For me it’s the opposite: I believe strongly enough in some key principles of life that I have to write about them. It would be a difficult exercise if it hadn’t been for all the experiences I’ve had over six decades. Lessons learned through personal failures and successes taught me that the great moral and ethical principles of life must always have traction in the broader public conversation.
But the last thing I want to do is become isolated through penning a blog. For many people who write on matters they are interested in, the penchant for narrowing everything down to a couple of issues is almost overpowering. It’s natural, even energizing, but most citizens who read blogs do so for a variety of reasons – personal, family, global, community, health, etc. The more narrow we become, it becomes more possible to become isolated. This seems counter-intuitive, but I have learned that the Internet can leave a person lonely and popular at the same time. Sometimes, by growing popular with a few faithful readers, you can become detached from larger society and its various challenges and needs, eventually losing a sense of balance and context.
Angry bloggers face their own set of obstacles. Put into words, their passions run deep and their cause is often just. The problem is that people in general are repelled by repeated negative messages. Multi-award winning singer Adele, following some difficult personal experiences over the Internet, put it this way: “I no longer read blogs. I used to, but it was just filling up my day with hatred.” I increasingly hear such sentiments and it could constitute a worrying trend, especially in a society where change is postponed.
For whatever reason, I have felt the urge to continue in attempting to place a kind of context over much of what we experience in modern society – especially in our local communities. I have no doubt many wouldn’t find my blogs interesting, and I have been informed that they are too broad in scope. But that depends on the reader as well. From my friends in Sudan, Britain, or even Ottawa, there has been an expressed desire for comment on diverse topics. Sometimes I identify with the words of Sebastyne Young when she somewhat ironically said: “My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.” And yet broader issues are vital to the human condition and require as much insight as do our personal reflections.
My day is taken up with countless activities, and these somehow often find their way into my postings. For that reason I feel they are real because they come from citizens – hundreds of them – who vocalize to me their hopes for community and the world. I am enriched through their observations. As one person I had just met told met at a coffee shop last week: “I don’t just want to hear somebody’s opinions – I get that everywhere. I want to learn and to make adjustments in my life to important lessons.” This is a noble citizen trait.
And so I blog. You will find the link here for the 245-page book collection of my blog postings from last year. They cover everything from lessons on the African savannah to growing a garden in our yard, from talks with haunted politicians to citizen gatherings that yet provide hope for our democracy. I write because the world is bigger than me and I’m trying to catch up to that reality. Every sojourner has to respond to what they see.