The question is completely legitimate and likely innocent (and of course reminds me how much I hate the word blog). Yet I can receive the query as a request for justification—maybe because I have asked myself the same question. Why should I be taking up a plot of space on an internet already crammed with information, and where there may well be nothing original left to say? Even more uncomfortably, why should I write in such a personal medium in a way that can feel too much about me. I still have no rock solid answers, but I do have a path of pebbles leading in the general direction.
I was fortunate that not too far into my blogging life, I came across a powerful observation made by the physician and author Sherwin Nuland in an interview excerpt. He was speaking about his book, How We Die. “What I learned from writing that book,” he said, “if I learned nothing else, is the more personal you are willing to be, the more intimate you are willing to be about the details of your own life, the more universal you are.”
That resonated. I thought of how the most honest, sometimes painful admissions and revelations in books, in blogs—in life itself—are the very ones that connect us, make us feel okay and less alone, and ultimately give us a strength that comes from knowing we are not alone in our vulnerability, difficulties and failures. There is power in sharing what is often buried or glossed over because of a strange, agreed-upon social creed that we should all pretend to know everything and be completely in control.
For you, or me, or some national figure to be able to say that we have questions, and we have not done it all well, opens up space for someone else to stop holding their breath and acknowledge their own difficulties. This is not to say that I don’t want my site to be inspiring—I do—but I also want it to be real. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, my family, friends and fellow seekers can still find a glimpse of me making it real here. And as much as the blog seems about me, it is really about making myself a gateway to the universal.
That concept may seem easier to apply to the blog posts than, say, my header of photos—of myself. I feel awkward just writing that. But the header is meant as an invitation to an emboldened life of varied experiences. As I admit in The Bilbo Baggins in Me, I have not always felt like leaving my comfort zone to be exposed to something new, even knowing it could enhance my perspective and my life. Maybe you have had this feeling, too. So, if my admission and my photos embolden one person to try a new experience, then it is worth it.
If you look at the header, you will see me: gilding a square on the golden dome at Notre Dame (left); taking photos at the Earth Sanctuary; climbing the Romeo and Juliet tower at Taliesin (center); helping with preparations for building a personal desert shelter at Taliesin West; and taking documentation photos of a stained glass window at the Library of Congress (right). There is a level at which I am as surprised as you may be that I have done some of these things, especially when I had to overcome a fear of heights. Perhaps we share the experience of that, or the attentional blindness or imposter syndrome discussed in other posts. I hope we also share the belief that we can have experiences we never imagined, in person and on paper, because that is a universal truth my blog is here to convey.