The Quaker blogosphere didn't used to be so big! When it was smaller, it was easier to go more deeply into (electronic) dialogue with one another... I feel like I got to see the hearts and spirits of my fellow bloggers more easily because many of us commented regularly on each other's writing.In recent weeks, I've noticed the presence of a number of new blogs like Richard's. It also seems like there has been an increase in the number of posts, comments, and cross-references from one to the other, but maybe this perceived increase is the result of the summer season of yearly meetings.
Much like when a small worship group balloons into a sizeable meeting, I fear the cyber-intimacy of our blogs has been somewhat hurt, as we strive to keep up, to keep our tired fingers on the multiple pulses that are out there.
And, as in a growing meeting, when visitors become attenders and attenders become members, the norms of the collective may change over time. Or the entire system needs to be reworked.
And of course, the more Quaker bloggers there are, the more comments and posts are going to appear. And when you add to that, the publication of a front-page article about Friends in a major newspaper, well, it all contributes to a slightly hyperactive blogosphere, I suppose.
Sadly, it's been easy for me to get sucked into the desire to keep up, to read as many of the posts and comments as I can. I often say that the Fear of Missing Something is nearly as powerful as the leading of God. Admittedly for me, it's that Fear of Missing Something that pushes me to catch up on my blog-reading when I've returned from lengthy trips.
As a result of my playing catch-up, of the increase in new blogs, of the cross-referencing between posts, I find I am not reading blog posts and comments as thoroughly as I used to. I skim them or read comments selectively. Which in and of itself doesn't help knit the online tapestry together.
From there, it's easy to imagine that my own comments are not as well seasoned as they once were. I also feel as though I have less spiritual and emotional "space" to hear my own thinking and consider my own inner promptings about a post that is struggling to emerge, because I am so full-up on having read other Friends' writing.
This reminds me of being in a popcorn Meeting for Worship: I want time, space, and stillness for me--for us!--to re-center and re-settle. I need time, space, and stillness to absorb what has already been shared, and I need time, space, and stillness to release it so I can again make room to listen for God.
I once read somewhere that among the questions and advices to consider before offering a piece of vocal ministry is something like:
Will what I say deepen the silence? If not, don't say it."We can't listen if we are always talking" is another way to look at it. And the same holds true that I can't listen if I'm always reading or writing.
I miss the quieter, slower times of the Quaker blogosphere. It was easier to breathe between messages, to take a few days to reflect, to consider a reply, compose it, season it, revise it, and then post it. And it was easier to remember where I had commented, so I could return to the post and see how that specific online dialogue was going.
I wasn't worried about keeping up with the online Joneses; there were so few of us. I was more focused on building authentic connections and following the threads that were bringing us into a new sort of cyber-communion.
What used to be a shared, unspoken, easy rhythm is now shaken up and has become for me a fragmented and furied staccato. At first I was excited by it. Now I find I am spiritually tiring from it. I may need to engage in this expanded blogosphere in a new way soon; find a new rhythm that suits me.
The Quaker blogosphere has grown but our structures to keep us in cyber-harmony with one another have not. I don't mean a harmony in the form of clearness or getting along with one another or even being aligned with the will of the Spirit; but rather a harmony in the form of having a sense of each other's rhythms, concerns, and struggles.
I've been aware of the individualistic nature of the internet in general and of blogs in particular. But the Quaker blogosphere I stumbled upon only eighteen months ago seemed to transcend that somehow: we seemed to share and practice a discipline both on- and off-line that helped me get to know fellow bloggers in a way that was very rich and spiritually nourishing for me.
We seemed to come to know something of one another that was known only through an intentional, cumulative experience of reading one another's words with a curiosity of spirit, an openness of heart, and a gentleness of character. And there seemed to be more space, more time, more stillness to do that, "back in the day."
I can't help thinking of the similarities between the evolution of a small worship group becoming a large monthly meeting and that of a quiet blogosphere of Friends transitioning into a large and active network of Quaker bloggers. How do we stay close? How do we nurture and maintain a spiritual and emotional safety that allows us to open ourselves to one another and to the Light? How do we convey our faith--and our (blogging) practice--to one another and help sustain one another in who we are as Friends?
But surely I can still tap into that same curiosity, openness, and gentleness that I've used all along as I read new blogs and a long string of comments, right? What gives?
"What gives" will have to be either the number of blogs I follow on a regular basis or the quality of how I respond to the blogs that I do read. Like so many other things among Friends, a balance will have to be struck, I suppose. Struck and discerned through further listening.
Thanks for reading me.
UPDATE: For a related post, see Martin's thoughts on "munching on the wheat."
UPDATE, Ninth Month 2006: Robin directed me to a recent post by Velveteen Rabbi that has amazing parallels to the presence of Quaker blogs... or what the Velveteen Rabbi might refer to as Q-blogs.