Relaunch: part one

Sunset at Sear Ranch, California, December 2021

Five years ago, I had every intention of writing more often, of keeping this blog-space active. Life got in the way. The pandemic got in the way. I got in my own way to the extent that I wasn’t sure what, exactly, I wanted to do with this space in the first place. I am not sure that I have a perfectly clear answer to that question, but I do feel as though I have a direction, a set of inter-related objectives/non-objectives that will, if nothing else, provide some framework for me.

So, here goes.

First: about a year from now (depending on peer review, the press, editing, indexing, and so on), my next book will be published. I’ll say more about the book in a later post; for now I’ll simply say that I wrote it with a specific audience in mind and, like all books, it’s limited. There are topics I wanted to cover in the book that I either had to gloss over or not cover at all. And there are audiences I want to reach that may not find the book because it is, at the end of the day, an academic monograph. So I want to use this space to discuss the book, the process of writing it, the topics and themes contained and not contained therein. And I want to write about it in a way that reaches other audiences.

Second: I want to stretch my writing. I have spent the better part of the last two decades writing for a very specific audience — specialists in the fields of religious and Buddhist studies — and there’s a part of me that is, frankly, sort of over of it. Specialized academic work is important work, and I think specialists need to keep doing important, specialized work. And surely I’ll keep doing it, too. But I also dream of doing other kinds of writing for other kinds of people. Making that shift will take practice, and I believe the “low stakes” venue of one’s personal blog is as good a place as any to try out ideas and different styles of writing, get feedback, and see where this impulse may lead. Even if it leads black to where I started.

Third: collection and curation (the non-objective objective I mentioned in this post’s opening paragraph). I’ve been thinking of late, in a very off-hand and unfocused way, about social media silos and echo chambers. I’m not sure that’s a particularly helpful metaphor for our media consumption practices. I wonder if this practice is not better described by the act of collection and curation. Here I am thinking of the way Roxanne Gay describes Spotify and her rationale for leaving the platform. Spotify is a curator of content, and because it has a large audience, it is not a particularly selective one. Most curated collections, be it your Instagram feed or the SFMOMA, are decidedly more limited. If we view these collections as just echo chambers, we are focused solely on the end result of the practice of curation. By drawing our attention to the practice of curation, I am thinking about how this process necessarily means engaging with things one may not be particularly interested in, consuming media that goes against our personal beliefs or ideologies and then deciding to ignore it, picking up and examining and engaging with a wide array of stuff, most of which may not end up in the collection but was still engaged with, suggesting that the echo chamber is not predetermined.

What does this have to do with this blog? My third objective/non-objective is to do this type of collecting, both the practice of picking up and examining things which may or may not be of ultimate interest to me or ideas I may ultimately discard (that last paragraph is an example of what I mean); but this also means curating a collection of things that bring me some sort of joy. And, to be clear, I do not mean “joy” in some transcendent spiritual sense (I am not advocating for a Marie Kondo blog experience). I mean something much more limited and specific: I am interested in collecting things that make me — this embodied sentient being named “Scott” — happy in the full awareness that happiness is fleeting.

Thus, what you may expect from this site will be a mixture of reflections on my research, stray thoughts and commentaries on Things Happening in the World, and — in an effort to bring some uncomplicated joy to the world — random images or other media that I find interesting. (Most likely, pictures of my cats.)

My goal is post something every Friday. I am hopeful this publicly stated goal will keep me on track to meet one of my loosely defined hopes for 2022 — to read and write more, to read and write more diversely, to be attentive to and engaged with the world around me.

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