Friday, September 9, 2011

Liberty, 9/11, and a Million Blog Hits in the AV

Santi Tafarella Talks About the Ultimate Freedom: Uncensored Thinking

Recently AVC faculty member Santi Tafarella passed an amazing number. . . his independent, un-sponsored, just him in his PJs blog passed one million hits.  (That was over a month ago, and it's still scooting along.)  Titled "Prometheus Unbound," it talks about politics, museums, art, literature, religion, philosophy, and about ten thousand other topics besides.  As we approach the 9/11 weekend, here is what he has to say about his blog and its numbers. 


Some people around campus have noticed that my blog, which I started in June of 2008, has passed the million hit mark and want to know why I blog. I'll offer three.

Here's my first answer. Freedom.

I named my blog after Percy Shelley's poem, Prometheus Unbound. Shelley was an atheist at a time when it was not safe to be an atheist, and in that poem Shelley imagines Prometheus, who famously stole fire from heaven on behalf of humanity, freed from the rock that the king of the gods, Zeus, had bound him to.

Shelley’s poem was a response to an ancient Greek play by Aeschylus titled Prometheus Bound. In Aeschylus’s version of the Prometheus myth, Zeus’s binding of Prometheus to a rock as punishment for stealing fire from heaven was completely justified. By Aeschylus’s lights, Prometheus had done something villainous because all beings must respect the sacred order. It is, according to Aeschylus, madness to fight the gods. You should know your place, and accept it.

But, as an atheist, Shelley didn’t accept his place. What he saw as wrong in the world—including what he found wrong in religion—he meant to change. And so, in his poem, he celebrates Prometheus and unbinds him. Shelley's Prometheus is a symbol of freedom (much as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom).

Likewise, my blog, named after Shelley’s Prometheus, is a place where I exercise my freedom; where I speak my mind.

I speak my mind on my blog because I'm of the opinion that adults can hear things. The first Americans fought a revolution in 1776 that individuals might obtain liberty, including the liberty to speak forthrightly in public. And a great deal of blood has been spilled since then to assure that we retain this liberty.

So, I blog because I'm a free individual. Because I'm a member of no flock. I'm not a sheep. Sheep don't blog (unless they're just repeating—bleating—what they hear around them). Sheep don't think. I'm a thinker. I think about things. And I speak.

Every time I put a blog post out into the world saying exactly what I think, not writing under a pseudonym, I strike a small blow for human integrity and greater intellectual freedom in the world. It's pushback against all would-be censors. And this is true of every person who takes up blogging, whatever their views on religion and politics, or what it is they choose to obsess about. It does wonders for the soul to exercise the habit of expressing yourself openly—to be out there, a free person in the world who will not be shut up. 

So when people ask me what I'm doing blogging, I ask them, if they claim to have free souls and minds, what they're doing not blogging.

The second reason I blog is to discover truth.

Socrates noticed that one way that a human being can come to the truth of a matter is by a process of dialectic—of dialogue—and blogging is ideal for this. This comes in two forms: inner dialogue and outer dialogue. When, for example, I'm writing a blog post, I'm in a Jacob-wrestling process of inner dialogue: Do I really believe what I'm saying? Should I say it differently? Is there a way I can say it better? What am I neglecting here?

And when the blog is posted, things shift to an outer dialogue: people will come around, read what I wrote, and in the comment threads (the "comboxes") throw me for a loop, thinking of something (or an angle on the matter) that hadn't occurred to me. Agonistic give-and-take with others helps me think; helps me get at the truth of matters. Two heads are better than one. And ten heads in a vigorous comments thread are better still.   

The third reason I blog is the sheer pleasure of writing. If I'm going to be a writing instructor, I better practice writing of some sort on a daily basis. And I better like it. And I do.

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