I have never written posts like this
. Come to think of it, I wonder what people think of me when they probably have little data about my offline life and self. It sometimes feels unbalanced that I know so much about them.
Who are we when we are online?
Maybe a better question could be,
What is it about you that surfaces in an online environment and would not come up anywhere else?
Things change depending on how you frame the question, don't you think? The first question seems to call for a battle of opposites between virtual and real. The second question could well ignore superficial dualities and deal with more important things, in my opinion.
I think it is not possible to hide who you are after having written for, say, four years online. If you pretend, I think you may fool a beginner, someone who goes for convenient quotables in your posts instead of consistency. Because reading, after all, is a choice between what you would like it to mean and what it actually means, seasoned with lots of tolerance for what you cannot tell clearly yet.
I think I need uncle Whitman to help me express what I mean,
"All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch)..."#1
Things are there, if you want to read them. That simple.
Those who have been reading my tweets or listened to my mini-podcasts know that I love poetry and poetic prose fragments. You may find the most varied kind of poems there in English and in Spanish, but I know that there is an underlying theme in my choices. My search, my drive in finding them is an exploration of how different voices have managed the struggle of making sense of the world, while living in touch with the mysterious interstices between fantasy and reality.
So, for instance, for Borges, reality and dreams are really hard to tell from each other. His point of view is that of Leo Di Caprio's in Inception. (By the way, I learnt that the film director read a lot from Borges before writing the script).
Cortázar, far from the academic and classical allusions so typical in Borges, made his point speaking of objects that surround us everyday. Listen to him,
"Now I write birds.
I do not see them come, I do not choose them.
They are suddenly there, they are this.
A swarm of words
in the barbed wire of the page,
screeching, pecking, rain of wings
and me, without any bread left to give them, just
letting them come. Maybe
that's a tree
Cortázar is an ordinary man with an extraordinary predisposition to weave poetry with whatever signals he comes across. He is a feeler, a noticer, a dailyshooter.
When asked about where he drew the line between reality and 'the fantastic', as the genre he wrote in is called, he said:
"I don't. The fantastic is my reality."#3
Juan José Saer, who would have probably argued with Borges, solved the reality versus fictional aspect of literature quite simply:
"By its mere existence, every story is real". #4
On a TV interview #5, Saer was asked to talk about the power of books, their relationship to life; he interrupted the interviewer and said:
"Books ARE life."
Those words go deep in the vinyl of my brain.
We are, we live, we can understand based on the many stories that were read to us, and the countless stories we have told ourselves of who we are.
Think of this.
When you write, and you try to be transparent about how each fledgeling thought of yours is tied to the words that another blogger has said, and you become aware of the hyperlinks between their experiences and your own life story, isn't that as real as it gets?
Right. No. How about close-up enough then?
How can I hide who I am in my choice of subjects for a photo, in my foreign tone of voice when I read a poem, in the rhythm of my sentences or the list of subjects that never ever get an account of in my blog? Something real and undeniable underpins the chaos of it all.
You do not have my portrait. You hardly have a clue of how old I am. You cannot read my very own poems sleeping in a cardboard box on the bottom shelf. Most importantly, you do not know who I'd be ready to kill or die for.
I have long ago decided all that is my privacy.
And yet, I like to think that if you, keen reader of my online footprints, met me face to face, you would confirm you already know me. You would, perhaps, just add more accurate sources to this long quote of myself, which is my blog.
Let me ask you once again:
Who are you when you write online?
Think of it conversely. The offline-only people in your lives who have never ever cared to read what you passionately write about, who do they actually know?
I feel I could carry on writing like this, but this post is long enough and I need some sleep.
#1 Whitman in Songs of Myself.
#2 Cortazar's fragment is from the poem "Cinco últimos poemas para Cris". The translation is mine.
Ahora escribo pájaros.
No los veo venir, no los elijo,
de golpe están ahí, son esto,
una bandada de palabras
en los alambres de la página,
chirriando, picoteando, lluvia de alas
y yo sin pan que darles, solamente
dejándolos venir. Tal vez
sea eso un árbol
o tal vez
#3 My best recall of what Cortázar says in this long interview
#4 Juan José Saer in his novel, La pesquisa (The Inquiry). I read a taste of it here
#5 How I wish that existed somewhere online! It was in Channel 7 in early 2001.
Labels: identity, poetry, writing