A friend asked me fairly recently: why do you write publicly?
Now, granted, I am certainly not the only individual to share very personal experiences and reflections online. I have read many a personal post on the Internet, on subjects ranging from deep loss, personal experiences of abuse, and reflections upon God.
We all know that the youngest generations (not me) have grown up on social media and the Internet. Many young people are often more comfortable communicating online and representing themselves online than they are in person. Personally, I use almost no social media at this point, but I came of age in a world in which blogging publicly about one’s self doesn’t seem so queer.
On the other hand, I should provide additional context: Papa was a very, very private person, as has been my Mama for as long as I can recall. In my youth, our family culture of privacy was entirely natural to me because it was all that I knew. I recall, for example, my parents being displeased when our next-door neighbors renovated the windowless side of their house, which faced ours, to include a large window. That felt like an infringement upon our privacy.
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For the most part, I am no fool 😉
If I were aiming for a career in politics, I would never have launched a website like this. I am also, in general, making an effort to avoid posting information that could damage me professionally or personally. Someone might judge me for my worldview, but that is a concern that I have been surmounting.
Writing publicly about myself has become increasingly (but not entirely) natural to me over past few years, but it wasn’t always so. Previous to embarking upon my very personal and public kaddish journey, I never, ever imagined myself doing such a thing. To be honest, it’s hard for me now to believe that I managed it – logistically, technically, intellectually, and most of all: emotionally.
My first ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ blog post was really my Rubicon, particularly because I titled it “#1”. I didn’t quite know what I would write, but I knew that it was only the beginning.
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I was so vulnerable at the start, yearning for as much support as possible. I posted that first blog post and shared it with family, friends, community members, and coworkers. I wanted them to respond and offer their condolences, and I received them.
As one would rationally expect, I received fewer responses after posting my second kaddish blog post. Irrationally, I felt hurt. With each subsequent post, the numbers declined, and then they leveled out. For most of my kaddish year, I was probably receiving three to ten responses per blog post, including e-mails, messages, and conversations. I didn’t keep tabs, so that’s just an estimate.
Still, I continued writing, and I came to realize something. I wasn’t writing for affirmation. I was writing primarily for myself. In fact, it was my drive to continue despite the low response rate (relative to how many people I was sharing my posts with), which brought this home to me.
Interestingly, there were several who became very invested in my project, and they responded to nearly every single post. In some cases, they would respond to several posts at a time, but it was clear that they were reading every word I wrote. As time went on, the responses I received from these individuals became especially meaningful to me. While I did manage to discover my own inner strength, the confidence I had my voice was buttressed by these few.
And – I made it through that year. My kaddish project was successful in that I was proud of the result.
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So many people write about so many different realms of expertise. Politics (at all levels), science, religion, you name it. I find that I’m barely an expert at understanding myself, but writing as I do is a great help to me.
Interestingly, I am not motivated to keep a private journal. It’s hard for me to explain why, exactly. There are certainly multiple overlapping reasons.
In part, I’ve come to perceive human beings as each having / being stories, which share many common themes. I may be a traditionally-inclined Jew in Israel who happens to have been thinking a lot about the themes of loss and legacy of late, but my life experiences and reflections have much in common with many, many other human beings. That’s what makes for compelling literature and movies – the relatable elements. I’m convinced that the Harry Potter series, for example, achieved such success partly because of how well J. K. Rowling sewed the world of wizardry into the fabric of a world that so resembles our own.
So, I like the idea that a random individual somewhere in the world might resonate to what I’m sharing. That’s a powerful thought and not unlikely.
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“Why so public?” some ask.
Perhaps because it makes me feel as though I am somehow more than a single human story.