Not with a bang but a whimper


How many people are thinking of the last stanza of T.S. Elliot’s “The Hollow Men” these days?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

I’m going to figure: a lot of us. Not that the world has ended.  Yet. The year’s coming to a close, though, or at least the year as marked by the Gregorian calendar.  My whimpering end to it: I let my first LD Weekend bonus shot go completely by, not even fixed ex post facto, and am going to be lucky to get my arse out of town and up to the hills in one piece, there to wait out the rest of this year amidst drifts of snow and family.

In “Why I Blog,” a piece he posted/published in The Atlantic last year, Andrew Sullivan discussed the power and perils of this medium, noting this distinction:

We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges. We blog now–as news reaches us, as facts emerge. This is partly true for all journalism, which is, as its etymology suggests, daily writing, always subject to subsequent revision. And a good columnist will adjust position and judgment and even political loyalty over time, depending on events. But a blog is not so much daily writing as hourly writing. And with that level of timeliness, the provisionality of every word is even more pressing–and the risk of error or the thrill of prescience that much greater.

He goes on:

No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait–must wait–until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

This fall, I’ve not exactly lived up to this creed. Faced with various conundrums, some within the scope of this blog and some lapping up all around its edges, I’ve elected to write sotto voce.  If at all.  A fitful spray of photographs has had to suffice. I found myself turning to photography as my primary means of communication following the death of my mother, too.  I ran out of words by noon each day, and spent most afternoons that first aching year hidden behind a camera, evenings huddled over trays of chemicals under the perpetual red sun of the darkroom, watching images slowly emerge as I swayed them back and forth underwater.

I have higher hopes for 2010. Partly because I live with a dyed-in-the-wool optimist, and it’s hard for that not to rub off a bit. Partly because all things change, and whatever this is, it too, will pass.  To everything there is a season, and that season comes and goes (and comes again).  I’m by nature protective of the tenderest parts of those around me, and also slow in many ways, preferring depth over breadth, the thoroughness of a few things over the accomplishment — by any means necessary — of many.

Not exactly intentionally, but not with regret, this fall I have become a slow blogger (one manifesto here, another along the right margin here; the NYT anointed it in a piece here).  It has suited the conditions around me, if not my sense of responsibility to the mission I have for this blog — essentially to make families and parenthoods like mine visible, and therefore comprehensible, that we all may help one another do our good work here with opener minds and hearts.

Up I go now, to the drifts of snow and family.  Thank you, gentle reader, for your time here. I’ll be back soon. I hope you will be, too.

10 thoughts on “Not with a bang but a whimper”

  1. I’m not going anywhere, Polly. Yours is one of the best voices we have making our families visible. With due respect to Sullivan, I’d also venture that blogging is like parenthood: a marathon, not a sprint. Taking time to catch one’s breath is not only permissible, but may be better in the long run. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  2. The slow blogging concept makes a lot of sense. Many of my favorite bloggers post infrequently, but are well worth the wait. There’s no rush: Lesbian Dad is staying on my feed reader for sure.

    Darkrooms are very soothing, aren’t they? I learned at my school’s lab, but now it’s hard to find photo clubs with semi-public darkrooms (not impossible, though!). Like slow blogging, I find that my best pictures come out of self-developing. Since each copy takes so long, you have to think hard about what’s best for each picture.

    I hope you and your family have a nice year’s end!

  3. Moving beyond visibility to comprehension is the commonality we all have as humans. Thanks for making the commitment of showing your family to me, Polly. It’s been an undeniable blessing.

    More in the new year, I hope.
    Merry Christmas!

  4. Whimper doesn’t seem quite right for the LD blog this year … seems more like a gestation period to me, from the outside looking in. And thank the good gods for slow blogging. What a relief! It’s so very Berkeley! I am in awe of your commitment to this blog! I’ll definitely be here reading. I wish your family the sweetest of holidays, lots of time to play and be.
    p.s. I LOVE this photo … good book?

  5. I’ve begun posting a lot more photos on my site too. Somedays you want to ‘say’ something, but simply don’t have the words. And, slow doesn’t mean ‘stop.’

    Hopes for you and yours to have a wonderful and peaceful New Year.

  6. Posting on my blog has been light in recent weeks as well. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say…it’s more that I have too much. Both can stop us in our tracks.

  7. No worries, we’ll be here. Be gentle to yourself in this time away, and revel in every moment with your beautiful family.

    As for silence; where would our speech be without it? Silence as punctuation, silence as rhythm, silence as thought, silence as that which turns babble into a powerful message. The words and images will return, and will be better for this period of quiet.

    Peace and joy, health and happiness be unto you and yours in this New Year.

    Eliza, Marcey and Asa

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you.

    So very worth keeping at this, with such fine-hearted company. May we all have a far, far better 2010 than our 2009s were. Even if for some, 2009 was a banner (and not a bummer) year.


  9. Hi,
    I’m a new reader, but know you, as our kids go to school together. What a wonderful blog. I’m glued to my chair. Thank you for writing. I’m hooked! ~Heidi

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