I’m for transparency…except for secrets.

This year we have suffered floods, only mildly here but elsewhere both in Victoria and in Queensland devastating floods. And now the news of this ghastly earthquake in Christchurch and everyone is muttering Armageddon. As if all these dramatic climatic events signal the end of the world.

On top of this we have all these uprisings in the Middle East that might also signal a new world order. I can only hope in the end it comes out for the good.

People power. The democracy of the Internet, the marvelous capacity of Face Book and Twitter to connect people in ways no dictatorship had even dreamed possible. This has to be good.

And then there is the issue of transparency and what happens when information intended for only a select few gets transmitted further a field as in Julian Assange’s efforts via WikiLeaks.

Here in Australia Assange is attracting something of a hero’s status. Elsewhere in the world he is decreed a villain. My sympathies lie with him, as my sympathies lie with myself.

I do not think I would actively seek to divulge other people’s secrets unless they happen to my secrets as well and I thought it necessary that they be known, but Assange exposes other people’s secrets, namely the secrets of those in power.

I have been feeling despondent about my blog writing of late. Worried that I write the same old, same old stuff, struck by the degree to which I feel constrained as I write. There are so many things I cannot say here.

I read a terrific article about blogging recently, Why I Blog, in which the writer talks about the distinction between writing as we know it, the stuff that is laboured over, polished and refined, the stuff that makes its way into print and the blog. ‘The feedback is personal and brutal,’ Andrew Sullivan writes, ‘but the connection with readers is intoxicating.’

I agree. Intoxicating, and at times crushing, but why? I ask myself. These people may exist. They are your readers and you are one of them, but they need not become the arbiters of your mood states. Yet often, as ever, they do.

Sullivan argues that blogging cannot be too refined. It must necessarily take place in a rush; it must not be too polished. It is the conversational style that wins over readers in the blogosphre, with its rawness and its close to the edge quality. Brevity is of the essence. I fall down here I’m afraid. And clarity of voice.

Often when we blog even as we imagine we are writing or creating a certain persona, our readers will see things in us of which we are unaware.

I have rankled at my own tendency to moralise within the blogosphere and my resentment when I read others doing this very thing. It is so easy to pass judgment within the written word. So easy to pronounce ideas with a heady certainty that we do not usually maintain in conversation.

Blogging allows for more freedom of speech and thought but it can also turn into a dangerous calcification of ideas, the good of it though, Sullivan argues is that both sides of all polarised arguments get represented. The hardliners will have as many blogs as the lefties all touting their views.

I am amazed to find in my forays into blogdom that I seem to gravitate towards folks of my vintage, though there are a few younger ones in the mix. But I cannot be sure.

Before I started to blog my daughters warned me that I would not know these people to whom I write. They could all be falsely created identities, not the flesh and blood people they purport to be online. I imagine there is a small number of such people within the blogosphere, those who actively create a false persona.

But in my experience, short lived as it is, most people within the blogosphere seek a certain level of honesty and truthfulness that I find breathtaking. I’m for transparency you see, even as I know there are many many things we cannot say to one another, out of respect for others, out of respect for ourselves and out of respect for the medium. Good writing relies as much on what is left out, as it does on what is included.

‘You end up writing about yourself,’ Sullivan writes,’since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. … But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one.’

This is what I both relish and curse in my life as a blogger. The urge to tell all and the need to watch it.

I am a scatter brain

I have been at my thesis part time for nearly six years now. I have two more years in which to complete it. These are the difficult years. This is when I will need to stick to the basics of my academic housework, to set up indexes, footnotes, paragraphing etc. But before I do this, I need to get the body of the thesis held together. I need a skeleton, one on which I can pile flesh, jam in organs and stick on limbs.

This is my task today – to construct a thesis skeleton. But I am a Jill of all trades, and a mistress of none. I hobble from one thought to the next and cannot settle on a single idea, a single image, a single notion to follow.

Another person might move to someone else’s writing for direction, but I do not want to read yet, not another person’s writing, not yet, not anymore. Another person’s writing will become for me yet another distraction and I am already awash with them.

This thesis matters to me. It matters to me as one way of overcoming the wretched sense of failure, which I endured some nineteen years ago when certain powers-that-were decided that I should no longer continue in my training.

I had invested so much in this training to be a psychoanalyst that at the point where my mentor told me I was no longer wanted, my world seemed to collapse, and for a time it did. I survived then by putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

One day I took myself off to the Immaculate Conception Church in Hawthorn in search of comfort. I no longer believed in the healing power of God and his angels but I still held faith in my memory of those times when I could find comfort in the quiet, musty corridors of an empty church. I tried to breathe in the feel of the past, myself as a child, a child who could be comforted by the belief that someone out there was looking out for me and that all would be well in the end.

In March 1993 the playwright, Dennis Potter spoke about his life.
‘You start defining your dignity by your ability to work,’ he said, and then he paraphrased the words of an unnamed American theologian.

‘There is a child crying in a room and the mother comes in and picks it up and says, “There, there. Everything’s all right.”

Outside there might be bombs and starvation. Is she lying? The answer, in my opinion, is that she is not. No matter how corrupt, wicked, cruel, disastrous the world is, some little tributary of feeling says, “It’s all right.” That is where writing comes from.’

Blogging has become one way of practising my writing but it is also a distraction, as if I am cleaning my house and move from one room to the next, never quite settling on a task before I move onto the next.

Today I must brainstorm my thesis. I must stick with the task.

It is Good Friday. The one day of the year when most things stop. I allocated this day in my mind the last time I sat with my supervisor.

‘You are going to need to sit down with these ideas and work out a structure,’ my supervisor said. ‘You are going to need to pull it together’.

Pull it together. Who me? Not me, I am a scatter brain. I am fearful of structure, the way it ties you into a forced form , like a straitjacket, the way it narrows the roads along which you might travel.

This is not true, another inside voice says. Structure will allow you to follow multiple roads. It will create a sense that each road is clear and separate, each leading somewhere different.

The way it is now your roads begin but they end in cul de sacs. They end in incomplete bits of pavement. They end nowhere.

I fear I have already imposed too much structure on my thesis but it is not a creative text per se.

The creative text can form one road, my now internal supervisor says to me, but it needs a description of what you are on about, otherwise your examiners will fail you – again.

Again you will fail. As you failed mental arithmetic in grade six and Mother Mary John handed back your report card and said
‘I knew you were bad, but I did not realise how bad.’’

Strange how some words stick. How some words come to colour your entire life.

I have slipped into the second person. Forgive me. I am trying to include the rest of you in this, my fellow bloggers. I imagine you too know what it is to feel damned to failure for the rest of your life.

It is a damnable position from which you never quite recover.