December 29, 2005

Generalizations and Throwaways

I was thinking stereotyped thoughts about a group of people who are near to my heart. Then I stopped myself and thought, “I’ve been around long enough, I’ve seen enough examples, know them well enough, so that I don’t need to generalize.”

That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re taught, isn’t it? We’re taught that when we see sufficient examples of a phenomenon, we’re justified in making a generalization about it.

But I don’t find that to be true in real life. I find that the more examples you see of something, the more you understand that each example is different and generalizations are beside the point, misleading. The more examples you see, the more exceptions you find.

Generally speaking, that is.

Then I was thinking about whether I ought to play this blog a little more loosely, relax the construction of posts and allow myself to write more throwaways. My usual method is to draft a post on Microsoft Word and then upload it to the blog. That way, I have a Word file as backup, and every few months I print the new stuff in the file so I have a hard copy as backup too. But lately I’ve been a little lazy and have been writing some posts directly onto Blogger and not backing them up. I back up the ones I think are “serious,” and I slack off with the ones that are casual, immediate responses to things in the world outside my crafty involuted mind. I just type them out and toss them into the well and consider it good exercise that I’m writing them for immediate oblivion.

But what if those throwaways will be the very things that interest future readers most? That’s where they’ll get the feel of what it was like to live in our time; that’s where they’ll find the spontaneous expression of a culture’s spirit. The “serious,” ambitious pieces will be hobbled by the conventions and received attitudes of this year, this decade – by the very topicality I try to disown in them, but which can’t be disowned any more than one’s skin: ten years from now they’ll shriek “Ten years ago!” Clogged with the sediment of their vintage. While the outwardly topical pieces, trivial as champagne bubbles, will feel fresh and unfettered, so light they float above their origins.