The first blog I ever followed with anything like devotion was the one that belonged to Josh Gibbs in the mid-to-late-2000s. As he would fully admit, Gibbs was often trivial and sometimes pompous, but he was always interesting. He was willing to explore any subject, including himself, and he did so with equal doses of energy and deprecation. This was before social media was everyone’s main internet canal, so I had to actually go to Josh’s website to see if he had posted anything new. If he had, I was delighted and would read. If he hadn’t, I would be disappointed, but I would scroll down to glance at posts from the previous week or so, sometimes even re-reading longer posts if I had skimmed them before. It was like visiting a library or a museum. Often, nothing had changed between my visits, except me.
(You can read Josh Gibbs’ writing today, if you so desire. He blogs here about classical education and the good life. His first book came out this year, which you can order here or here. (Do so. (It’s worth your time.)))
I have always wanted to create a similar place on the internet. Unlike the intellectual freeway that is social media, a blog can be a place that people want to visit, and visit regularly. Ideally, a blog creates a community of readers with similar interests. A blog can be a place where friends encounter one another with the kind of surprise C. S. Lewis wrote about: “You, too! I thought I was the only one…”
Back in the day, the title of a blog post by Josh Gibbs used the word we. “We are Thoughts on The Dark Knight…” “Stuff We Listened to this Summer…” “We Typed this out of the Newspaper by Hand and You’re Welcome…” He claimed it was an attempt to make blogging a sort of performance art: the post was a group effort, a combination of all the readers’ attention. The first-person-plural pronoun also had another effect that I’m not sure was intentional: it downplayed the role of the blogger in the whole affair. Josh was not upturning a bucket of his thoughts over our heads. Well, he was, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like he was standing beside us, pointing. According to his book, this is an attitude he carried with him into his current role as a teacher.
The good teacher inspires desire for God in his students, and calls them to yearn for Beauty and strive for pity and holiness and virtue. The good teacher tells his students, “If you see me as I am being taken from you, you will receive a double portion of my spirit,” for he can offer his students nothing greater. The student trains his eye on the teacher and will look at nothing else, the teacher trains his eye on Goodness and will look at nothing else. Slowly, the student comprehends the paradox, then the teacher is gone and the student will look only at God – but first the student must learn what kind of devotion Goodness requires.
The title of this blog “A Man is Online” is supposed to downplay my own role in a similar way. These aren’t my thoughts, my experiences, my words. They’re the thoughts, experiences, and words of a stranger, a rando, a peregrine. The internet robs everyone of ethos. Might as well embrace it. Take what follows as you would take the shouts of a man wearing a sandwich sign at the corner of 45th and Broadway. Most of what he says is pure gibberish, but every so often, the ravings almost seem to make sense…