So, I'm just going to let myself do that for a little bit here, but then I'll try to bring it back to something more positive at the end.
The reason this comes up now is that I've been making a serious effort to learn more about blog-world, and to find some blogs to list along the side of this one like I've seen other people do. (First I have to figure out how to do this, because I do have some candidates I'd like to list! But this is getting off topic...) As I've learned strategies for trying to find kindred-spirit blogs, I've been looking at a lot of blogs along the way. And I find that there are many blogs that include a lot of complaining. For example, I like Quaker blogs, and I like blogs about the academic world. (There are others I like too, but these two lend themselves best to my next comment.) But people can spend a lot of time in these blogs complaining about the current state of Quakerism, or Academia, respectively. And, while I'm generally sympathetic with the concerns that are expressed, I end up feeling left with a sense of hopelessness and despair. Sometimes I also feel yelled at, even if I'm not actually guilty of the problems these writers complain about.
For those who write in some sort of public way: don't we have a responsibility, in our writing, to move beyond our "I'm upset about this" reactions? If we need to write into and through our dismay first, in order to get to more positive solutions and suggestions, then shouldn't we go back and edit out most of the dismay before posting or publishing our writing?
Challenging words, perhaps, in our current culture that generally permits, even encourages, complaint and critique! And perhaps I haven't been perfect about this myself.
But I'd like to ask (both as a reminder to myself, and to others who may read this): what writings do you most like to read, and why?
Here are some of my answers (this is the "moving towards the positive" part that I promised above!):
- I like writings that are deeply rooted in well-reflected-upon personal experience. The personal experience can be positive or negative; the reflection part translates that experience into helpful insight.
- I like honest statements about people's current burning questions, struggles, problems -- statements that move beyond complaint and contain hints of why these questions, struggles, problems matter, and how it is that addressing them will actually make things better, and even point to what that "better" looks like!
- I like many forms of humor, especially humor about the ironies of life.
- I like writing that shows compassion and understanding towards others, and towards oneself.
- I like writing that helps deepen the reader's understanding about the world and about human nature.
- I like writing that does not insult the reader. I like writing that seems to regard the reader as a trusted, intimate, and honored friend.
One final thought: complaining is easy to do. Working to bring about real and lasting change is very hard. Our culture gives us lots of models for how to keep complaining; furthermore, complaining is habit-forming. (Complaining may also keep us complacent.) It is much harder to find good models for how to bring about change. And working for change requires focus, self-awareness, intentionality, and discipline. It also requires patience. Most of all, it requires deep insight into human nature, and the desire to work compassionately with human nature, not against it. When you are working for change, you will meet resistance. If you fight against that resistance by berating people for resisting your excellent ideas, you will lose. When you begin to learn what resistance really is, and accept that everyone (yourself included) does this, then and only then will you begin to learn how to become an effective agent for change.