Maybe you sort of know I exist because you’ve actually met me, if the silver river of good fortune has carried your sweet boat down that stream. But if you haven’t met me, then you interpret the shapes of letters on the screen to make the sounds of words, recognize the meanings of the words, and compose them into sentences with even more complex meanings. That process somehow implies that I exist.
Now that I exist, I suggest we consider something from a different writer (it’s poetry, so I’ve inserted the / symbol between lines): “But first I make a protestacioun/ That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun;/ And therfore, if that I mysspeke or seye,/ Wyte it the ale of Southwerk I you preye.” This is considered Middle English, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales.
My extremely free, unpoetic translation to modern English is: “But first I want to say that I can hear I’m drunk, so if I say something wrong, I want you to know it’s the beer talking.” Reading Chaucer’s lines helps me to believe he existed. The lines allow me to be in the mind of someone who knows what it’s like to talk to people who are suspicious of what you say, who knows that getting drunk can cause people to say what they ain’t got no business saying, who knows that it’s human nature to try to make excuses for behavior. This feels like a human being I can relate to.
The words in a piece of writing can declare our existence, and people have certainly latched onto this notion. I have the impression sometimes that anyone who knows how to type has a blog, or is thinking about it. At last count—and this was done with strict scientific methodology—there are 8 billion blogs in the world. That’s more than the number of people, so there must be some animal blogs included in that study.
Blogs are tremendously popular, but as I can tell you, you can blog for years with mostly just your own imagination of people who might read it to keep you going. Readers? Blogs are supposed to have readers?
But people blog anyway, with only their best friends pretending to read it once in a while. This widespread social passion for writing must be a good thing in some way. Lots of people want to use words, to write, to put ideas into text. But why is blogging so popular? Why are people so intent on this? I believe it’s mostly because the blogs declare our existence.
At one time in history you needed to conquer a weaker tribe, but now you can just blog about wanting to. The entire Trojan War could have been avoided, with Achilles writing once a week about going to dinner at his mother’s house, slaying a sheep, roasting it over an open fire, and how his mother always expected too much from him.
Myself, I’m interested in a question that precedes coming up with a title for the blog, that even precedes considering whether or not to blog. I wonder why we want to declare our existence at all. We got born, and if we’re lucky we get to sleep late sometimes, have sex sometimes, not suffer so much we can’t bear it, and then die. Poof, the dust blows on. So what?
The question I’m trying to raise in my tendentious, roundabout way has profound metaphysical import for me. What does it matter if anyone knows we exist? Really, what does it matter? And yet, how much of our lives, how much of our effort comes down to crying out, “But look! I’m here!”
And so we conquer Gaul, or found cities named after ourselves, or blog about how we just found a cool new band with a girl drummer. And by the way, I believe you exist, too.
Here’s a poem by Stephen Crane (in its entirety), the author most famous for the novel Red Badge of Courage.
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”