Monday, March 1, 2010

Digital bread crumbs

A friend has inquired if I thought the subjects that I write about on this blog, and how I write about them, are influenced by who I believe the readers are. In other words, do I write to my audience, expressing what I think they want to hear? It’s an astute question, deserving of a thoughtful response. To do that, I need to stop for a moment to consider who these people may be.


Ah, is there anyone out there who can help me with this?

As many of us have discovered, travel through the blogosphere resembles space exploration: It’s a largely fruitless search for intelligent life in an otherwise inky void. There are, by some estimates, more than 120 million blogs—in the English language alone. Even if you’re untroubled by the slow demise of newspapers and magazines, can we at least agree that blogs do not take their place? They serve many purposes, but making sense of the world through objective reporting is not one of them. They are to journalism what Jamaicans are to bobsled racing.

I can only tell you that I write The Ogler because I feel compelled to do so. I have an impulse to leave a trace, to drop some bread crumbs as I wander through the latter stages of my life. The words need to come out. By intent, what I communicate here relates to what someone with cancer experiences and how he thinks and feels about it. It’s not biography, nor memoir, nor even the confessions of a mad diarist. It’s a cancer blog. If you google the term you’ll find dozens of them, some worth reading. While I write at times about trivialities, you can’t argue that the subject is inconsequential. Cancer hasn’t made me clever or creative, but it does give me gravitas.

I’ve just finished a small book by Walter Wangerin called “Letters from the Land of Cancer,” which you probably won’t want to read unless you happen to have cancer yourself. It’s not depressing, at least from where I’m coming from, but does explore how this author and pastor became what he calls “a professional patient,” and what being in that status has done to his soul. It’s painfully, dead-eyed brilliant. More than anything I’ve read, Wangerin helps me to understand the difference between being told “You will die” to “You are dying.” What a difference a conjugation can make.

What Wangerin did, apparently, is collect the letters he wrote to friends and family over an 18-month period during which he was diagnosed and treated for advanced lung cancer. Perhaps he simply downloaded the letters from his computer to his publisher. This man has written more than two dozen books, so knocking this one out must have been a breeze. It wasn’t an accident that he published in book form what started out as pastoral letters.

My point is that we all communicate in some fashion what we believe matters most—even if that means communicating next to nothing at all. What I write about here is what I believe needs to be said to satisfy some inner prompting to those who care enough to come along for the ride. I write to tell the truth. Do I also sometimes write for effect? Of course. Do I manipulate, divert or dissemble? Probably, but not intentionally. More than anything, I seek to illuminate through language what’s in my head and heart. Were I to write these posts without knowing there are others to receive them, they would lack all dimension and resonance.

I discover a little of who I am by committing thoughts to words. Scribo ergo sum. If everyone’s life is a story, as I believe they are, then consider this a serialized version of mine. I write what I want you to know about me, but also, inevitably, about things I don't intend or realize. You've been officially warned.


Cam McCandless said...

Beautifully written, my friend. We're out here reading your thoughts and marvelling at the felicity of your expression, if I can use that term. Looking forward to spending a little face-to-face with you and Ellen this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Yours is a great rejoinder- as usual. Returning home from the funeral of a young man (36 years) today I was seeking solace and clarification in your blog to hopefully- somewhat- reconcile both life and death. I found some again and thank you, again. Those of us who don’t write love to read the art of those who do. We are out “here” reading, enjoying, and learning from what you write.
Do you write to “us”? I hope so.

nancy said...

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"

You answer your question with your own question that has defined your blog from the beginning. You write first for yourself, and then for the rest of us. We are all along for the ride, and blessed to be on the journey.

Steve said...

I read your blog for a number of reasons. One reason, and by no means the No. 1 reason, is that I may walk the same path myself someday. Most people our age have by now known numerous people who have had cancer. It never hurts to become informed--perhaps some of us will make wise medical decisions based upon ones you have or have not made. Another reason? You take the time to write this blog, it's interesting, and I'm interested enough in what you're going through to read it. End of story. -30-

Anonymous said...

Peter, I read your blog because God has given you the grace to allow the cancer to accelerate the Holy Spirit's work of tranforming you into the likeness of Christ. I desire to become more and more like Christ and I learn best through watching. Your blog is giving me a front row seat. Thank you. I pray for you every day. - Shari Plunkett

Tad said...

Dear Peter,

I found your blog shortly after I was diagnosed with melanoma. At first I read to understand your day-to-day experiences dealing with cancer and to help me find my own path. Later, I came to appreciate your insights and writing, and to understand your passions and loves in life. I'll continue to "tag along" for the ride as long as you keep writing.

I wish you well as you continue to fight melanoma.

Tad (Stage 1B, NED 5 months)