Too much talk? (or initial thoughts about the spirituality of blogging)
When I started blogging on 1 January 2010 I set myself a private target of a post a day for 6 months. This was a great way to get into the rhythm and discipline of blogging. Since then I’ve been more relaxed. I decided a while ago that I would not post just for the sake of posting something. Posts had to come out of ordinary everyday life – from processing ideas, teaching, reflecting on conversations and events with students and friends, engaging with books and then verbalising those thoughts in a hopefully coherent way. And the pleasure in blogging is the conversations with others along the way.
I’ve done very little blogging recently due to more important responsibilities in ‘real life’. And that feels fine. And I have only been glancing at the (fairly small) list of blogs I read in my Google Reader. And when I do, I’m increasingly feeling there is just too much to keep up with, even within my selected corner of the blogosphere. There is so much talk – a lot of it excellent, but maybe I’m just slow but I can’t process or think about 99% of it in any meaningful way.
Even since I started, I’ve noticed that the speed of blogging has increased. At many popular Christian sites, there is a smaller and smaller ‘window’ to engage in a discussion. Come a day later and it is all over – the conversation has moved on to the next topic.
There is also something of the ‘tyranny of the immediate’ in a lot of Christian blogging. Whether it is the latest big dust up between the Gospel Coalition and its critics, or the latest controversial book by Rob Bell or whoever. I wonder if we are being sucked into mirroring the insatiable appetite of the modern media for controversy by which to gain market share.
This links to something Sean said in the last post about the need deliberately to slow down, to nourish thankfulness and take time to reflect. Yes, I’ve connected with people and learnt tons from reading other blogs and the conversations that go on and will continue to read them – but I wonder if all this voracious talking reflects a very particular type of spirituality? An evangelical spirituality of activism, of individualism, of entrepreneurialism?
Perhaps it is a rule of being a ‘successful’ blog (interesting discussion right there – what is successful Christian blogging?) that you need to be posting at least once every day to gather readers who keeping coming back every day for something ‘new’. And alongside this production, you need to be marketing your site and maximising readers and so on.
But when does such ‘production’ become ‘over-production’? When does blogging become shaped by the dictates of consumer demand – a mirror image of our hyper-consumer market world that produces far too much stuff, most of it thrown away and a lot of it with little or no value?
When is there just too much talking for the sake of talking? And what I wonder are the consequences for those participating?
Here’s a story I like to tell: some years ago a large group of members and staff of an evangelical Christian organisation were away on a 2 day retreat in a very nice hotel. (I guess funding had been sourced from somewhere!). We had an excellent time socially and in discussions, workshops and talks. At the end a Catholic priest who had been invited as an observer shared his thoughts. He said something like this (in a very gracious and gently witty way),
In our tradition when someone goes on retreat they go to experience and listen to God. The first way they do this is to fast. You have not stopped eating all weekend. A second characteristic of a retreat in our tradition is to spend many hours in prayer. You have hardly prayed at all except quickly to give thanks to God at meal times. And a third characteristic is to spend considerable time in silence, listening for what God is saying. You have never stopped talking.
There was silence at that point alright. His words hit home because they were true.
Comments, as ever, welcome.