Monday, September 28, 2009

Synchronicity and Blogging Communities: Follow-Up to Terry Weldon on These Themes

I feel I often talk too much (at least on this blog). And, though I’m not Jewish,Yom Kippur gives me a reason to spend my time today reflecting and praying rather than babbling. I should say I’m not Jewish, but I stand in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters, and I value their spiritual and liturgical traditions, and I believe that Christians in general need to do more to understand and appreciate Judaism.

I’m breaking silence today to draw attention to a posting yesterday by my blogging friend and fellow pilgrim Terry Weldon at Queering the Church. Terry links to my postings last week about synchronicity in blogging.

As he notes, a group of us who blog about similar issues have been talking by email about the interesting synchronicity we frequently notice in our postings. The group engaged in this dialogue has consisted of Terry, Colleen Kochivar-Baker at Enlightened Catholicism, and me. We haven’t deliberately excluded anyone from that email exchange. In fact, we would very much welcome the contributions of others interested in sharing in this conversation.

The make-up of our discussion group has just happened. It has happened because Colleen, Terry, and I have all noticed strands of synchronicity running through our comments on other blogs and in our postings on our own blogs. To be specific: we have noticed on a number of occasions that, without having discussed a topic among ourselves or expressed any intent of writing about it, we happen to write about the same issues at the same time. And repeatedly so.

As Terry’s posting notes, this has led us to the conclusion that we—and, we think, others with whom we interact in the blogging community—are part of a growing community of bloggers with shared interests and shared purposes. And so we’ve been talking about formalizing that blogging community in some way, perhaps by sharing a platform for all of our blogs, by cross-posting on each other’s blogs, by drawing more collaborators into our group, etc.

We’re not sure, to be honest, precisely where this shared venture is heading. We don’t yet see the specifics clearly. What we do see is that a number of us began blogging around the same time, focusing on the same issues, and we’ve begun to form an unofficial blogging community with shared concerns and mission.

And so we invite anyone interested in this venture to be in touch with us and to talk about possible next steps. It seems to the three of us that the synchronicity wouldn’t be happening if there weren’t some purpose to it. And we think that by pooling our efforts, we may maximize the possibility of achieving that purpose, whatever it is.

I’m being deliberately vague about identifying the shared purpose of our new unofficial blogging community for two reasons. The first is that we want to remain open to whatever happens as we continue to explore a shared blogging venture.

The second—and perhaps more important—reason I’m being vague is that we don’t want to draw the lines so tight that we exclude a wide range of contributors to our shared venture. We do all happen to be Catholic, though our connections to the institutional church and our perspectives on active participation in it vary. And we definitely think that there ought to be room in our community for Catholics who fit somewhere along a spectrum from active involvement to purposeful disaffection.

And for that matter, for religionists of all types. Or for those alienated from religion altogether, but perhaps still seeking a spiritual path (that much seems fundamental to the venture—an interest in a shared spiritual path). And for those who incorporate elements of a number of religious worldviews and faith experiences in their lives.

We also all happen to be somewhere along the middle-to-progressive end of the political spectrum. We live, however, in different parts of the world. One of us grew up in the American South, another in the American West. Yet another is South African and lives in England. Our individual blogs seem to have found resonance with bloggers in other parts of the world, and we can foresee bloggers from many other cultural backgrounds participating in this community.

Several of us share an interest in gay issues and religion, though that’s not the exclusive focus of any of us or of our blogging community. For instance, Terry and I share the experience of having grown up in places in which apartheid of one sort or another prevailed, and both of us note that our thinking about many issues has been decisively shaped by the experience of seeing the racially segregated societies in which we grew up change in our lifetimes.

Well, enough. I’m writing now primarily to draw attention to Terry’s posting about what’s been happening as he, Colleen, and I talk among ourselves about our blogging experiences. And as Terry notes in his posting, we definitely invite anyone else interested in participating in this discussion and some shared blogging initiative to be in touch with us.

At a personal level, I take inspiration from the invitation of other bloggers I admire to collaborate with them. I’m convinced that most of the significant things that happen when societies change for the better happen due to decisions of people to stand in solidarity with each other.

Solidarity is at a premium in many societies, but perhaps most notably in the highly individualistic, atomistic, fragmented society of the United States. Our overriding American philosophy of rugged individualism assures that many voices which very much need to be heard, if we’re going to build a more humane culture, do not get heard. There are very strong watchdogs at the door of all the dialogic communities that see themselves as significant and influential, capable of speaking in a mannered voice that reaches the halls of power. Those watchdogs are there whether the dialogue communities be to right, left, or center.

And theyre not intent on inviting many kinds of outsiders into the conversation, particularly when those outsiders speak in the wrong accents, have the wrong pedigrees, come from and write about insignificant places, say what the canons of decency within official dialogue communities do not wish to have said. Official communities of discourse that consider themselves portentous are not in the habit of credentialing certain kinds of unwelcome others who are routinely excluded by a given dialogic community on grounds that usually have nothing at all to do with the substance of the excluded one’s insights, and everything to do with unwritten canons of taste about who belongs and who doesn't.

When those of us who seldom find ourselves invited into any of these significant and influential communities of discourse talk among ourselves, listen carefully to the experiences and insights of each other, and make solidarity with each other, who knows what might happen? From where I stand, it’s worth taking a chance and finding out.