Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Final Synchroblog

For the last four years I’ve been part of a group called Synchroblog, a loose community of bloggers responding each month to a question or topic. That group is ending, after almost a decade of sharing posts and encouraging each other in faith and writing.  I’ve enjoyed many of the voices I’ve met through Synchroblog, been challenged by some, frustrated by others. As with any other conversation, there have been times when the prompts seemed random or strangely off-target, and other times when a question or idea has opened new vistas, or drawn my thoughts in an unexpected, rewarding new direction.

The final prompt, for this month’s Synchroblog, is this: “If this was my last blog post, here’s what I would say…”

I’ve been rolling that question around in my head. I do occasionally wonder if it’s time to bring my blog to an end: why do I do it? Is it worth the time and effort?

I started as a form of spiritual discipline, as a way to focus research or bring a thought to conclusion. I am an abstract random thinker, with a hyper-link mind; it’s too easy for me to leap from idea to idea without ever attempting to organize my thoughts.

Rather quickly, though, I came to see blogging  as an expansion of voice, a place to say what I wanted to say, without needing permission, without asking what the audience might want, or looking for ways to monetize the outcome. After years of submitting short stories that didn’t fit a narrowly defined audience, multiple rejections of novels that would never be best sellers, sending off youth ministry articles and not even the courtesy of response, it felt good to write a blog post, proof it myself, and then hit Publish.

That still feels good. But beyond that, I found in blogging an interesting new community and place of conversation. Synchroblog at its best contributed to that: the goal was always to read each other’s posts, offer comment, reflect on the ways different bloggers approach the same question from such very different places.  

Social scientists write about “the third place,” a place that isn’t home, isn’t work, where people find community and conversation happens. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz built his coffee empire on that vision: coffees shops that provide 
A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. . .
Our mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. 
I’ve had some good conversations over Starbucks coffee.

And I’ve had some good conversations through Synchroblog.

But I find myself looking past the goal of “good conversation” towards something deeper.

Here’s the question behind the question: how do we really learn to listen?

And how do we wedge open our carefully wrapped assumptions to hear the voices that fall outside our range of frequency?

I had hoped, some years ago, that blogging, and the Internet itself, would provide an avenue for genuine dialogue on topics that divide us.

More often, it seems a giant echo chamber, where we all find voices that mirror our own, cut off or ignore those that say things we’d rather not hear.

We speak before we listen, write more than we read, label then dismiss.

As part of my blogging life, I try, every six months or so, to take time to look for other voices I should hear. And I ask, often, over coffee with friends or past colleagues or students, “What should I be reading?”

One younger friend recommended Vinoth Ramachandra, a friend of her parents, Sri Lankan ay theologian, thinker, speaker, blogger.

Another messaged me: Read Christian Winan, poet, and author of moving memoir My Bright Abyss.

Synchroblog led me to kathy escobar, “pastor, writer, advocate, speaker, rule-breaker, pot-stirrer, dreamer”.  She often says things I wish I'd had the courage to say, or describes her church and ministry in ways that prompt renewed prayer and hope. 

Frustrated googling led me to other voices, including Austin Channing, a blogger “passionate about the work of racial justice and reconciliation, especially as modeled and led by women."

Channing has been posting lately about anger: anger at injustice, racism, sexism, oppression, at forces that try to define and deny experiences and emotions that don’t fit the acceptable, agreed-on narrative.

from kathy escobar | love. justice. mercy
Reading her recent work, I’m reminded why I blog, why I read blogs: because the mainstream media too often misses the point.

Because the strongest, clearest voices are those that won’t bring a profit, or entertain a crowd.

Because God calls us, all, to be agents of reconciliation, to cry out for justice, to speak truth to power in whatever way we can find.

But to return to theSynchroblog prompt, “If this was my last blog post, what would I say?”

I pray, often, about continuing this blog. Is it the best use of the time invested? Is the fruit commensurate to the effort?

Some days I wonder. Some days I ponder an exit plan.

Then someone mentions something I posted, comments on a point I made, asks a question, reminds me that although my voice is small, it’s heard.

And will be heard.

Synchroblog or not.

Blog or not.

Vocal chords or not.

What I’d say, on the last post, next to last, in some way in every post, in my work and words each day:
God is a God of love and justice.

His love is made clear in our labor for justice.

His love is felt best when we serve him completely.

When we mistreat creation, shut out the stranger, diminish the other, reject the gifts of women, give preference to the powerful and rich, we distance ourselves from God himself and from the blessings he has promised.

There are just two things that matter:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, mind, being. 

And love your neighbor – every distant, voiceless neighbor – as yourself.

Links to other Synchroblog posts;