Not Nearly Enough Paper Towels

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In some ways the question is like asking why I breathe. It can be answered on different levels. I could attempt a scientific answer, and talk about the importance of oxygen for the body. I could provide an existential answer, and say that breathing is not something one chooses; it is something one just does. I could attempt not breathing for a minute or so, and then answer that when it comes right down to it, I breathe because I really want to.

But the analogy breaks down at some point because I could survive a cessation of blogging. After all there were many years before there was any such thing as blogging, and as far as I can recollect I did okay. In the 1970s I did not wake up every morning with these vague yearnings. So if the environmentalists get their way, and we all find ourselves back in those halcyon days with no electricity to be had, or with commie brownouts, the question of why I blog would be a moot question.

So with those tempered qualifications, why do I blog? The short answer, as well as being the most direct, is that I have been called to it. This thing is a vocation for me and, as with all vocations, I know that I was made for it, and that it was made for me.

I remember when I was around ten years old, I wanted to make books. I didn’t just want to check them out of the library, I wanted to make them. I didn’t just want to read them, I wanted to write them. And I didn’t just want to write them, I wanted to make them. Books were out there in the world, obviously, and somebody had to make them. Why shouldn’t I get to make some?

But the cyclic patterns back then were quite different. It was almost 30 years after those first desires when I wrote my first book. And when I first started writing seriously, I would have to finish the writing, edit it, transfer it to a floppy disk, take it downtown to a typesetter, have them print it out on a long roll of special paper, cut it up into appropriate lengths, wax the back of each page, and press it down onto paper with special blue lines on it. I was in heaven—I was making books. Then after that you would ship it off to a printer and would begin the agonizing wait (weeks) for your carton of books to arrive.

Earlier I had gotten a taste of what quick turnaround was like when I started writing a weekly newspaper column in the early eighties. I would go down to the newspaper office, they would loan me an empty terminal and keyboard, and I would type my column there. This is when I learned to type — I looked up in a book what position the fingers were supposed to be in, and then went in headlong. Fixing mistakes was easy, compared to those pre-Cambrian days of paper and whiteout. What I had typed would appear a few days (whoa) later.

And this is when I first began to discover the truth of William F. Buckley’s observation: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

This is also where (I think) I began to develop my basic rhetorical stance. Who is my intended audience? Who am I writing for? This stance characterized my writing for the newspaper, all through the Credenda days, and down to the present. Who do I write for? Who do I want to “get” it? I write for the conservative, evangelical Christian, who is dissatisfied with the way life tends to go in the monkey house of the contemporary church, and who does not quite know how to express the nature of his dissatisfaction. I write to give that man or woman a voice.

And I also have had the privilege of traveling a bit, and so I have met many people from my intended audience over the years. This has given me an important cross-check. If all the people who loved my writing had three heads, with all of them drooling, this would certainly give me pause. Did I pick the right intended audience? Or, if I did, is my writing communicating the way I want it to communicate? “I mean, everybody who likes my stuff is a freak show.”

But no. The people who like the way I commit my brand of thought crimes in full public view tend to be people who are faithful in their churches. They have happy marriages and delightful families. They love the Lord, and laughter comes easily. They live in the last homely house, on the edge of that howling wilderness of the cool. They hate social justice, but they do love, you know, justice justice.

I am skipping over a lot here, but fast forward to 2003 or thereabouts. The Internet was gathering force, and becoming more and more of a thing. Not only so, but as it went, it became more and more of a different kind of thing. The Internet was this protean reality—you would hear about something and by the time you checked on it, it was a bit different. So when I first heard about blogging, I had to go and check with somebody. What was it exactly?

I found out that you could establish a blog address, write something, edit it, click a button to publish, and there it was. (!!!! And I hardly ever use exclamation marks.) And you could, if you wanted, do the very same thing the very next day. (!!!!) That did it. I was home. I became a blogger almost instantly, as soon as I could figure out how to do it. Figuring out how to do it did have its challenges because I was born in 1953 and computer-technical stuff makes little beads of cold sweat stand out on my brow. But all of that was worth it.

Do you people realize what a close call that was? This technology, which did not exist for thousands of years, could have been developed twenty years after I was dead and deep. But no—God in His kindness allowed it to come into being after I had a computer, and after I had learned how to type. I mean, what are the odds?

The best way I know how to explain all this comes from a scene in Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell is explaining to his pious sister how his running is not a distraction from the mission. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” And that—mutatis mutandis—is how it is with me. Not the fast part, the pleasure part.

God made me for a purpose, but He also made my head overflow with metaphors, and my shoes are always wet from standing in the slop, and there are never enough paper towels. Kind of like that. Just like Liddell, only different.

So I am called, and I believe my calling is to write for the people I described earlier. My calling is to provide them with a voice, and I have good reason for believing that I am doing so.

Of course, publishing on a blog means that people who are not part of that intended audience are free to read it, and equally free to misconstrue it. But that’s all right. They are also free to attack it. That’s all right also because Pippa still passes. “The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn; God’s in His heaven— All’s right with the world!” There are also critics (and friendlies) who feel that it is important to inform me, every time it comes up, that they don’t read my blog. “I don’t read your blog, but someone just sent this to me . . .” What follows may be a well done or a strategic criticism, but the important part was that I find out that they don’t read my blog. But that is more than all right as well. They are in marvelous company. Do you know that the number of people who don’t read my blog is up in the billions? The person who markets not reading my blog is a genius, and hauls down the big bucks.

But the fact that my vocation is a tiny one doesn’t keep it from being a vocation. The fact that I am a sentry at a particular post does not make that post a strategic point. But it does make it my post, and so even if is a tiny post, deserting it would be a huge dereliction. My part is to be here; I am supposed to be here. And here I will remain until the Joint Google/Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Free Speech shuts me down.

After that, we will have to be content with Bible studies in my living room.

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Chip-N-NC
Chip-N-NC
5 years ago

….but until that day, we are grateful for the posts!!!

Capndweeb
Capndweeb
5 years ago

For the record, and as one drawn to words and their use like a chihuahua is drawn to barking at a leaf settling on the front porch, I read your blog and enjoy it.
Well done, oh Doberman of the blog-o-sphere. May your theology not only bite back, but chew up and spit out the knotted rags of deception this world waves before you.

Brian
Brian
5 years ago

Ha! Love it, Doug!

George Lutes
George Lutes
5 years ago

One of the things one learns in army basic training is one’s three General Orders. The first of which is: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved. ”
As near as I can tell, you’ve yet to be relieved. Keep at it.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
5 years ago

give us a voice?

I often feel like the ventriloquist’s dummy, going back & forth on your pages, re-mouthing the words so I can form them better

MeMe
5 years ago

Well, I for one never read your blog. Mostly I don’t read it because I have been told it is all wrong by the People Who Know Things. Given my propensity for instant compliance and unquestioning obedience, it makes perfect sense why I would not think to ever read your blog.

adad0
adad0
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

I know what you mean! I don’t even comment on this blog! ; – )

David Douglas
David Douglas
5 years ago

Wait, what is this “Bible studies my living room” thing?

David Douglas
David Douglas
5 years ago

“Just like Liddell, only different.”
….
A meta-metaphor, I take it.

FX Turk
5 years ago

I would like to point out that I cornered the market on drooling and three heads back in the day, but to my great relief I looked in the mirror and found I also had 3 heads and that was my drool on my shirt, not theirs. Jesus forgives those repentant sinners also.

Candis
Candis
5 years ago

I love being part of your audience. Thank you for providing me with a voice. I am forever saying “I couldn’t have said it better myself”

Caleb Ripple
Caleb Ripple
5 years ago

Can I go ahead and claim a spot in your living room just in case it comes sooner rather than later?

Anne Cvancara
Anne Cvancara
5 years ago

Thanks for your blog. It does give Bible-submitting and thus joyful Christians a voice. I am frequently sending various posts on to my happy-in -Christ family and friends. Also, I think it will help us all become better readers of our Bibles in the many living rooms across our once great land.

Marcus
Marcus
5 years ago

There are 2 great bloggers that I love to read today, in my own country Peter Hitchens and from the US Douglas Wilson. I was as happy as Larry when I discovered that they both knew each other. I think what I like is their common understanding that the forces of liberalism are (for the most part) pulling a scam and pretending to be something they’re not. And so neither of these gentlemen feels the need to have to be careful in their criticism, they go for the jugular.

bethyada
bethyada
5 years ago

I need to preface this comment by noting that I read your blog regularly.

Alistair Roberts has started a Curious Cat Account. Seems a bit like Yahoo Answers except the account holder answers all the questions. You can choose to answer whichever questions you want and questions do not appear if they are not answered (which I guess helps deal with the trolls).

Seems like something that may suit you and be grist for further rich posts here?

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
5 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

Thanks for bringing that to the attention of the group. I’m a big Alastair booster, and think he deserves a big audience. The curious cat format is much better than Doug’s video responses. But then I’m almost universally anti-video, so it may be personal bias.

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago

I did not grow up in a reading household, so the notion of making books was far from my 10-year-old mind, but I love living in a place where I couldn’t (were I so inclined) throw a stone without it hitting an author and ricocheting off at least a couple more, and I love having found my own calling in getting to participate in their book-making. Hashtag blessed!

Jane
Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  kyriosity

So in your job you’re surrounded by bookies? I knew something was fishy there.

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Well, , it WAS a big gamble moving all the way to Idaho, but they gave me good odds…and they are oddly good. ????

Dan Abbey
Dan Abbey
5 years ago

I live thousands of miles away in Manila but am greatly encouraged/entertained/informed by your wit and wisdom. Thanks Doug. Also, how can a writer improve his metaphor production capability? Seriously, any tips?

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan Abbey

Man, I wish there were a magic pill for the metaphor thing. It is an art that eludes me, as well.

Kilgore T. Durden
Kilgore T. Durden
5 years ago

Don’t be calling us, your readers, joyful. We are Presbyterian, after all, and smiling is verboten.

We are chosen, not joyful. Don’t you read Knox. This joy stuff might start attracting unbelievers and we certainly wouldn’t want that.

adad0
adad0
5 years ago

Dang Kilden, when are you ever going to get serious?!
????????????

Gary Perez
Gary Perez
5 years ago

Keep it up

Ben Bernanqui
Ben Bernanqui
5 years ago

Why would a snail sit on a thorn? Doesn’t that hurt?
And for how long?
Not long.

Mariano Ifran
Mariano Ifran
5 years ago

For a rare case of a seminarian, husband and father living in a tiny liberal country with a tinier evangelical population with an almost non-existent reformed subpopulation, well, I can’t be too grateful for giving us a voice. May the Lord continue to bless and use you in your not so tiny post Pr. Wilson.

MeMe
5 years ago

“After that, we will have to be content with Bible studies in my living room.”

Keep in mind you can always fall back on evandalism, too. That’s where you carry a piece of chalk in your pocket and just write the Good News among the smut on the bathroom walls.

soylentg
5 years ago

I have been a faithful reader for some time now (though the new format seems to have made it so that I cannot use my preferred screen name). I think it must have been a mention on Pyromaniacs that first brought me here. The wonderful writing style immediately set Blog and Mablog apart from other blogs that I found edifying. Now, of course, it seems that the days of Blogs being a mainstream method of communication are numbered. Most people no longer have a long enough attention span to follow them, let alone read a book. In the age of… Read more »

Eric Runge
Eric Runge
5 years ago

Doug, I don’t read your blog, but this article is really good compared to a bunch of your other articles, which I also have not read.

\'Lizbeth Anne
\'Lizbeth Anne
5 years ago

“I write for the conservative, evangelical Christian, who is dissatisfied with the way life tends to go in the monkey house of the contemporary church, and who does not quite know how to express the nature of his dissatisfaction. I write to give that man or woman a voice.”

Thank you.

Andrey Bulanov
Andrey Bulanov
5 years ago

This is why I blog too. Thank so much for the encouraging words!

Kent McDonald
5 years ago

There are metaphors and there are proper applications. Knowing how to select a metaphor is a wonderful skill. But the ability to create a PROPERLY APPLIED metaphor out of thin air that is both creatively contrived as well as astutely applied is rare indeed. My thoughts normally tend to be perceived to be as welcome as a pay toilet. Thank you for giving me a goal to attain.

Jane
Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Kent McDonald

Under the right conditions, a pay toilet could be extremely welcome.

Arwenb
Arwenb
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Only if you have the money to use it ^_^

Rob Steele
5 years ago

There’s a quote by Lewis or about him that I can’t find but that fits the situation perfectly, at least in my imagination. Something about deep sanity.

Ramond Carter
5 years ago

Thanks for the encouragement and the monkey house reference.