Thursday, January 22, 2009

As Anyone Pleases

Benjamin Franklin begins his autobiography with, "this may be read or not as any one pleases."

I have struggled these months to understand what exactly is the purpose of my blog. It is not one that specializes in a certain area, it does not inform, it does not display controversial opinions...it is merely a diary of sorts. A place for me to ramble on about my thoughts and feelings and observations. But why should such a thing exist? What is the point in it? And why would anyone read it?

In a literature class I had yesterday, we read an introduction to Kenneth Dauber's book, The Idea of Authorship in America. In his introduction, Dauber explains how Benjamin Franklin's sentiment in his opening line is actually quite revolutionary. Previously, people wrote mainly for two reasons: either to illustrate some factual event or idea or to delve deeper and discover some higher insight about the world. And readers read either of these to discover truth, be it the more realist version of truth - gaining knowledge of true facts - or a more romantic version - the higher truth of insightful discoveries.

Franklin, however, was not writing to present any kind of truth. His writing is more casual; it does not claim authority. It does not say, "you must read me in order to be educated" nor does it say "you must read me because I hold some secret truth." Rather, it says, "this may be read or not read as any one pleases." Franklin puts himself not in an authoritative position over the reader but on an equal plane, almost of comradeship. If the reader chooses to read, then he has chosen to listen to what Franklin has to say the way one friend listens to another. There is that element of choice, and then, in making your decision, you decide either to have a relationship with Franklin's words or not. As Dauber says, "Americans were writing free of the need for legitimation." They didn't need to assert the importance of their texts over their readers. They weren't writing those kinds of books.

Well, neither is this blog an authoritative sort of blog. It does not inform. It does not hold some higher truth. It merely is what it is. There is a certain faith, as Dauber expresses, that comes in a work such as this blog. I choose to write it - and so I have faith that there will be readers to read - and you choose to read - so you have faith that I continue writing. And with that faith and that relationship - the one of the writer and the reader - a blog like mine can continue to exist. Without it, it would fade out.

I write not to tell you anything, but to share with you, if you are willing to listen. I can't promise you will find anything either educative or insightful here and I don't presume to assert that kind of authority. That said, if you do gain from reading what I have to say, then I am very glad of it.

Thanks for reading so far, because without you, this blog would be obsolete.

So thank you.

7 comments:

the apple said...

*Small editorial note: it's not an intro to Franklin's autobiography, it's the intro to Dauber's book on early American authorship.

Erachet said...

Fixed, thanks!

Scraps said...

I like to read what you have to write, even though I don't always leave comments. Thank you for writing! :)

corner point said...

I also don't comment much, but I read most of your posts.

You're a great writer, and you've given me a lot of food for thought. Keep up the wonderful work!
:-)

Northern Light said...

Erachet, I check out your blog cuz I'm interested in finding out about your world! Plus, it's fun procrastination.

Ezzie said...

Thanks for reading so far, because without you, this blog would be obsolete.

You're welcome. :) (I waited like two days.)

RaggedyMom said...

This blog always makes me smile or gives me something to think about. Also, I feel like we are mildly related in the experiential sense, so it's always good catching up with my imagined extended family!