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.