Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why Write A Blog?

In particular, why do I write this blog? I was prompted to ask myself this question after watching a TED talk called Start With Why [1] by Simon Sinek, recommend by Eryn Defoort [2]. I was poised over my keyboard and ready to answer that with a fairly short statement, and I thought "why do other people write blogs?" So I went off on an internet search, and realized there is more than one answer. 15 Reasons here [3], 9 Reasons there [4]. Top Ten Reasons here [5]. And more personal reasons there [6]. So now I have to research more - read what everyone else wrote, and decide what applies to me. Although somewhat painful, this is much easier and far more complete than figuring everything out for myself. In reading these, I realized my reasons have changed over time, and I could identify some unintended consequences of blogging, fame and fortune not among the consequences however.


Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.


Circa 1985 [8]
In 2011, I had a stroke which paralyzed my right side. Over time, I have regained a lot of movement, but I still have deficits. While I was in hospital for rehab, I blogged daily about my stroke and my rehab, first on Facebook and email, and eventually on CaringBridge [7], I was a little compulsive about it for a while. I was definitely hoping for a full recovery, but that hasn't happened yet. One thing I miss a great deal is playing piano. I think I was pretty good at it, see for yourself [8]. Playing piano kind of defined my role in my church too, I played for hymns, accompanied and directed choir for a few years, stuff like that. I was a musician. After my stroke, I felt like I had no role anymore.

Later that year, the minister started a speech club, which I normally wouldn't have signed up for, but I thought that this was something I could do to contribute again, and maybe God was opening a new door. But after a couple seasons, I grew tired of it, plus it didn't seem I had any more of a place than I did before club. So you will see that my earliest blog articles are transcripts of speeches I gave in club. It still took a while to start blogging though.

So why would I think my speeches would be worth listening to? In 2003, I began to study Hebrew. I'm not fluent at it, but I see interesting Biblical insights only available in the original language, no filters due to translation. I also began to study Hebrew commentaries, and learned there is a wealth of information out there that Christians don't ever hear because of a bias against anything Jewish and a bias against the Old Testament. It wasn't academic Old Testament stuff that I was learning - with the growing Messianic movement, I was learning more about Jesus Christ. I felt like I had a gold mine of interesting Bible info to share. You know that feeling when you learn something that you think is so cool, and you just want to tell people about it? Even if they don't want to hear it...

And books. I get interesting ideas from books.

Psalm 23 decoded by Haik-Vantoura,
and handwritten by her
Well, why did I decide to study Hebrew? Christians don't really need a reason to study Bible languages, but here's my story. This too goes back to music. I read a book called Music of the Bible Revealed [9] by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. She claims the cantillation marks in the Hebrew can be decoded into melodies. As choir director, I took Haik-Vantoura's melodies of Psalms 23 and 150, and wrote them out for a choir, a fragment of Psalm 23 is at right. It was a challenge for everyone, but we did perform them. And for the first time, I was going through verses word by word in Hebrew. I was struck with the brevity of Hebrew. For example, "the Lord is my shepherd" is translated from "YHVH ROI", (יְהוָה רֹעִי).

Work didn't set me free either
After my stroke, it was really important to me to return to work, to prove my worth. I think everyone wants to feel important, well at least feel useful. In the long run, I may have done better treating rehab like a full time job instead of working at an actual full time job. But I did derive satisfaction, if not importance, at my job. For instance, I am coauthor on a few scientific papers - NEJM [10] for one, and I wanted to be first author on one of my own. I wrote a couple articles, but they never left the building. So, I'm a frustrated author with something to prove.

So I started writing this blog. Some of the reasons I still write have changed over the years. And the way I write has evolved. I do more research than at first, and I include references, mostly online references so the reader can click and read the quote or research for themselves, somewhat like writing a scientific paper, but you can't click on paper. I also have a few friends review articles before I publish them, the opposite of Andrew Sullivan's approach to blogging which is "We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge." Why I Blog [6].


Should have read this [11]


I went through the 35 reasons listed in the articles I referenced above where other people advocate blogging. Some don't apply to me, laughably so. For instance, two articles mentioned making money. What? From blogging? For another instance, "become comfortable being known". Most of my articles get about 70 viewers, and none of them are throwing cash at me.




But there are some actual benefits in these 35 reasons I can relate to, here's a few.

Become a better writer/thinker, also expressed as turning messy ideas into neat ones - I read stuff and think "isn't that interesting?" But the process of writing it down so others can enjoy it too helps me to understand it better. Sometimes, you can't figure something out till you write it down, and maybe rewrite it a couple times. It becomes a way of doing Bible study.

Inspire others - If it inspired me, maybe it will inspire others. "Freely you have received, freely give" - Matt 10:8.

You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things - Now, when I hear or read something Biblical, I'm evaluating it for blog worthiness. There are topics I never would have studied into unless I had the intent to write about it. I'm discovering that I like Old Testament typology, where a character or a story or a place has Messianic symbolism, my favorite being the Tabernacle. I like finding things that make more sense in Hebrew, sometimes different from my previous understanding. I like seeing how interconnected the Bible is, written over many centuries, yet woven together. "Show me wonders in Your Torah" - Psalms 119:18.

One benefit not mentioned in these 35 reasons is simply to preach the gospel in some way (yes I know much of what I write gets a bit academic). Whether or not one believes in the priesthood of all believers - 1Peter 2:9, I think we all have a duty to do "what we can with what we've got, where we are" - Squire Bill Widener (NOT Teddy Roosevelt) [12]. In other words, it's something I can do. I am fond of the saying, "preach a good sermon, use words if you have to" - NOT Francis Assisi [13].

Oh, and the blog title "Between The Ears". I had to choose a title when I first set up this blog, and it's what came to mind. "The biggest battle a Christian will ever face will occur between your ears – in your mind" - Rodney Burton [14]. I learned there is another blog named Between The Ears [15] out there, go figure. If I started this blog today, I might choose the title "New Beginning", or maybe "Learning Things I Didn't Want To Know". The stroke forced me to start over in some ways, like a vine getting pruned. I don't know if I'm a better person, but I'm a different person.



References

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE&app=desktop
2. http://eryndefoort.com/
3. http://www.becomingminimalist.com/15-reasons-i-think-you-should-blog/
4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danreich/2011/10/15/9-reasons-you-should-blog/#4d8d16057b83
5. https://www.lifewire.com/top-reasons-to-start-blog-3476742
6. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/why-i-blog/307060/
7. https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jlfreeman/journal
8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWmzRerYSfk
9. http://musicofthebiblerevealed.blogspot.com/
10. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1311707
11. https://www.amazon.com/Blogging-Dummies-Amy-Lupold-Bair/dp/1118712099
12. https://suebrewton.com/tag/do-what-you-can-with-what-youve-got-where-you-are/
13. http://www.christianpost.com/news/preach-the-gospel-and-since-its-necessary-use-words-77231/
14. https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/fighting-between-the-ears-rodney-burton-sermon-on-youth-131589#
15. https://betweentheearsblog.wordpress.com/