Had Montaigne Seen Rugby

This is a fragment of an essay I wrote in the style of Montaigne, on the subject of knowing oneself.

So here sit I, contemplating myself: an armchair philosopher. But an armchair philosopher, however much he knows himself, knows only his sitting self: and that is a very limited self indeed! How much better it is to know oneself in sport or conversation, to know oneself in gaming or feasting, to know oneself in sorrow, in danger, in love, in religious reverence and awe, and

the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?

How much better to know yourself living than to know yourself as one who sits in a chair and thinks! For that reason, I now set down this essay and turn myself to the far more helpful activity of running around the block once or twice. When I am back, I shall perhaps not have progressed as far as Socrates: but at the least I shall have lived better (and I’ll have the advantage of saying that I’ve been around the block a few times.) I am inclined to believe that Plato would have been the better for a good ride on a bicycle. It is not only the soul that man must know, for the good Lord gave us bodies as well: they are as much a part of us as our souls.

So how can a philosopher or any man, indeed, know himself if he knows not his body? Did not the fathers tell us that we must keep our bodies in check, and under our reason’s control at all times? A good game of rugby, played well, will tell you once and for all, how well your reason has your body in hand. And what better way to mortify the flesh than with the bruises and knocks that come of hard sport? I daresay a seasoned rugby player has mortified his flesh as much as, if not more than, any flagellant. A hard-earned try tells you as much about yourself as any syllogism. A closely held tackle gives as much glory to God as a finely crafted sonnet.

How To Make Money Off Your Blog

How to make money on your blog?

I’m here to tell you: don’t.

Why did you take up blogging to begin with? Wasn’t it to tell the world about yourself, or give other people helpful tips on stuff, or to get feedback on your writing, or to brighten up someone’s day with good advice and a smile? Wasn’t it to give valuable reviews of books and movies? Wasn’t it for other people?

You didn’t start out trying to get money.

What changed?

Perhaps one day you were surfing the blogosphere, and you came across one of those all-too-common posts: “HOW TO MAKE MONEY ON YOUR BLOG,” followed by a lengthy list of low work rates, astoundingly high returns, and glowing testimonials of the “insert-name-here” system. Something for nothing! It sounds almost too good to be true!

Is it too good.
It’s not true.

I’m not saying that they’re lying: you might in fact be able to make money off your blog.

But don’t.

“Why not?” you ask. “Why does it matter if you make money off your blog?”

Because as soon as you try to make money off your blog, your blog has become about what you can get from it, rather than making your blog a gift for other people. Your readers become a commodity that you sell to the advertising companies, fodder for your wallet.

Once your readers become cash revenue, you care less about them and more about what they can get you. A few bucks? Maybe. But now that you’ve taken your blog and made it a business, you’ve sold yourself.

Don’t be greedy.

Don’t be miserly.

Give something away for free.

If you sell your blog as a product, it becomes subject to the laws of supply and demand: the customer is always right. No longer do you have the freedom to write what you want: you must write what the readers want. And if what the readers want isn’t what you want – tough. Your blog is no longer your own.

So if you decide to sell your blog you have literally sold your blog. You don’t own it anymore. The fleshhooks are in, and the gnawing worries about how to get more readers, how to paint your blog in ever more attractive ways, how to make more more more money – well, my friends, you’ve lost something.

But not forever.

Forget about the money. Resist the siren song of cash for readers: it will only destroy your blog, and your relationship with your readers. If you’re selling your blog right now, stop, turn your back on the money, and don’t look behind you.

Love your audience. Do something for them that gets you nothing back. Be truly generous.

Making money off your blog is a losing proposition.

Drop it.

Commusic – Music with Other Folks: Quantity, Quality, and Questions

Recently I noticed something that I’ve taken for granted almost my entire life, along with most of my generation. The biggest things, the ones we assume as part of our existence, are the ones that become invisible, and music is no exception. Music, as it is today, exists in a new and different format from the way it has throughout most of history.

Music is in the hands of the masses. Without the necessity of an orchestra, or singers, or any sort of equipment besides an i-Pod, we can listen to music whenever we want. Think about it. Before music became portable, first in the shape of radio, then records, tapes, CDs, and mp3, we would have to gather at some spot with other music lovers of the same kind, and attend a performance or make the music ourselves. Either way, music was a community event. Now, it is entirely common to see coffee shops bursting at the seams with hipsters and their earphones, all on their own, listening to some new band nobody’s heard of.

***

Everyone’s on a private tap in this brown room, and buds are burrowed into their ears. It’s like drinking alone at a bar of many people. I feel the urge to splash my beverage over the crowd, really shock them with a good cold splash of Irish drinking songs, maybe start a jig on the big table. But everyone is drinking their music alone, silently noisy with themselves. I take a sip. Soon I too am staring at greasy counter on my faded oak-and-brass stool, watching the wood swim through the brown wash at the bottom of a glass of soundtracks. I am drunk with my story of one. It’s lonely in this fable. Maybe I’m just selfish. Maybe we all are. All I know is that we are alone together.

***

Part of the problem is scarcity. The more rare something is, the more people value it. When music was available only on special occasions, only rich people could afford it. But now that music is in everyone’s hands, we take it for granted, like water. It’s everywhere. It’s assumed. But if you take it away….

Now, a thought experiment.

Suppose you had a rock face on a cliff, and a chisel. You have your whole life to write something there. What are you going to write? Well, you can be darn sure it’ll be the most important, profound thing you’ve ever thought of. After all, it’ll be your life’s work.

The rarer something is, the more we pay attention to it. If we could hear music once a week, we wouldn’t waste that time listening to Friday by Rebecca Black. We would want something important, something meaningful. So here’s a question. Does the quantity of music available to us affect the quality of music we listen to?

This is why the old question “If you were on a desert island, which 5 ___ would you take?” is so effective. It limits the availability of something, and then asks us to really assess what we value most of all.

And there are more. When exactly did music in community get trashed? Is it a product of individualism? Did new, portable technology shape our music? Did lower-quality music make it less worth-while to sing with other people? I don’t have all the answers. But I do have some questions that it may be worthwhile to ponder.

Do you have music you could sing with someone?

Would you feel comfortable singing with other people?

If not, why?

Is all music lessened when you listen to it on your own?

If not all, which kinds?

Do you value music less because it’s so easy to access?

 

(If you’re a Christian as I am, a few more questions.)

Does singing with your church congregation have more meaning than other music, because you’re singing in community?

If you don’t think so, why doesn’t singing in community feel any different? Are you missing something?

What do the Psalms have to say about singing together?

What would Christ have to say about singing together?

 

If these questions interest you, or you want to discuss these issues, feel free to leave a comment, and we can talk.