TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG: RIFFING ON MONTAIGNE

Ubiquitous, like its Latin root ubique, is everywhere. It’s omnipresent, far and wide, here and there. Like blogs and their forebears, diaries, essays, stream-of-consciousness, each and every last one – drum roll please – is ubiquitous.

Why have I joined their fray? It began with the occasional Op Ed in major newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe for example. Then it was LA Weekly. As budgets shrank and readers shifted, priorities hardened. Make it newsworthy became the mantra. Not a bad emphasis, I might add, especially for a newspaper, but I grew tired of waiting for news stories that lent themselves to the opinions I wanted to write. Even successful bloggers eventually told me that I should be writing blogs that are topical, buzzworthy, and capable of being quoted or tweeted by a journalist. Showing up on facebook should be a priority too.

Good advice no doubt, particularly for a person who wants to be read, quoted, and known. I like those things too, but they are a far cry from the reason I write. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I have plenty of things to say. I’ve spent a lifetime as a psychology professor at UCLA, I’ve been an expert witness in decades of extraordinary litigation, and I’ve been a singer and lyricist in an Americana Desolation punk rock band.

My inspiration is the sixteenth-century author Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. His volumes, published under the title Essays, are extended journeys through introspection. Montaigne was a master of his inner world, a superb phenomenologist of himself, a philosopher of internal minutiae. Opining as a laid-back wordsmith, he wrote about countless things, detachment, erectile dysfunctions, war. Montaigne was every person’s every person.

Even if I were capable of writing with understated elegance, Montaigne’s abiding gift was his ability to articulate the incidentals of his inner life. It gave the Essays timeless appeal. I however am a storyteller. I have great source material, but one foot remains in academia. My blogs will be an acquired taste, if at all.

There is something else I found remarkable about Montaigne. His psychological sophistication was often extraordinary. I felt the same about Boswell’s diaries, James Madison’s personal letters, and many other documents of old. Though psychologists are accustomed to believing that psychological interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for example, are contemporary in origin, the fundamental insights are centuries old, approximately 100 AD to be exact. We are what we think.

That advice remains the same. Author credit is another matter entirely.

 

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