Feb 13, 2012

Rule no. 1: Step outside the noise

I've tried, four or five times, to write about the Catholic bishops vs. the Obama admin. & the fight over the new rule all employers provide health care that provides coverage for oral contraceptives. I have failed, though. There's no post. Nor, I guess, is their going to be one.

I just couldn't figure out how to do it & still follow my own blogging rules.

Since my rules push me regularly to such idiosyncrasies & since some might have expected something on this issue (or another such issue), & this situation made me think of them again this week, I thought I'd take a minute to articulate my self-imposed rules.

Rules for self on writing a better blog:

1) Step outside the noise.

There's a temptation, always, to just take a side, defend a side, to say what one's side is saying. Don't do it. You are not a part of the scrum, but stepping back from the scrum to look at & think about & analyze it. More: your goal is to help other people do this, whatever particular side they happen to have.

2) Don't repeat what's been said & is being said.

Because, seriously, why spend your time devoted to repetitions & echoes & "me too"?

3) Remember: "What is most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking."

The same as 1) & 2), but summed up by Heidegger. This means, also, esp., attending to the drafts that draw thinking, & giving 1st priority to thinking about why we think the way we think in a given situation.

4) Extend charity.

Engage w/ the best versions of people's arguments, even if the people themselves have not made those versions of their arguments; fairly & adequately represent the full complexity of things; always take people's positions seriously.

5) Don't give people what they want.

What you want & what people want & what makes really successful blogging is largely reaffirmation, self-justification, & enabling one to say "thank God I'm not like them." Instead of this, be challenging. Most of all to yourself.

It's my belief that if I do these things, this work will have been worth my time.

To be clear: the division I'm trying to draw is not actually good/bad blogging, but worth-it-to-me/not-worth-it-to-me.

The above rules are why I got stuck, though, & ended up not writing about the bishops & health care that includes birth control. W/ this case, I particularly got stuck with 4). The ideas in this debate -- esp. those that aren't worked out, that are not articulated, that are hidden, embedded in what's said -- are so complicated. Trying to work out a coherent position on religious freedom based the positions of those supporting the bishops very quickly became overwhelming. Figuring out how to say what commentators could mean by "conscience" or what could count as an exercise of religion, & who or what could exercise religion was kind of an impossible amount of work.

Saying why any particular position didn't make sense was ruled out by 2), pretty much. A lot of critiques have been written in the last week. Many of them quite good -- none of them needing repetition by me. & if I wanted to follow rule 2) by doing rule 1) & saying more -- saying, "it's not that position X doesn't make sense, but that this position commits one to positions Y, Z, etc., which people who hold position X don't seem willing to take" -- I found myself again w/ problem w/ 4).

There were several other versions of this.

Whichever way I came at the debate, I found I didn't have something to add that I wanted to add, & what I would want to add was just too huge an undertaking for me.

It's easy, at that point, for me to get sucked back into the noise.

Which is why I opted for silence.