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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why Bloggers Blog: Part III-A

To Restore Meaning to
Throw-away Words in a Throw-away World

The comments following Part II were interesting, and I wanted to add a confession of my own before discussing the civility of 19th Century letter writing (Part III-B). In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there was an anthrax scare on Capital Hill. All the networks were covering the evacuation, including "Your World with Neal Cavuto" on Fox News. Cavuto thought our leaders were sending the wrong signal by leaving their posts and quipped something like, “They could at least reconvene at the local Wendy’s and carry on with our nation's business.”

His insinuation of cowardice, prompted me to fire off a rebuttal to his mailbox at Foxnews.com. The hasty note ended with something like, “It’s obvious that you spend a good deal of time eating at Wendy’s. Why don’t you start broadcasting from there so you can enjoy a burger while you do the show!” Zing! I hit send, thinking some machine would read it and crank out a robotic reply. Later that night, I was shocked to get an email from Neal Cavuto himself.

He thanked me for my note and apologized that he had spoken without thought. It wasn’t his intent to second-guess people, and he admitted that his Wendy’s remark was as indefensible as mine was deserved. He even joked that if his love for Wendy's had become that obvious, he would begin a diet [and you can see that he's now slimmer.].

Mr. Cavuto's civil reply was completely disarming. I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I had given way to "Jerry Springerism," that flaw that makes us more eager "to get something off our chest" than "to take words to heart." Those who wish to write must do the latter, for it's only by taking words to heart that we have anything stored up to say. ( "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.")

Do you remember that scene about "zingers" in "You've Got Mail"? I felt like that and wrote back a humble apology of my own (to which his reply was equally civil). I don’t always agree with Neal Cavuto, but that night, I was honored to follow his lead on the high road.
We live in a “throw away” world. Disposable pens, lighters, razors, and plastic ware fill the drawers of our homes. Many of our appliances and electronics have become "disposable" in that they are easier to replace than repair.

In a “throw away” world we don't have to live with things very long. Perhaps that's why we’re more inclined to use “throw away” words in chat rooms, email, text messaging, and “I-M”ing. Through electronic writing we have gained the immediacy of self expression, but we've lost the enduring sense of things we say.
When shock jock, Don Imus, was fired last week for what became the ethnic straw that broke the camel's coarse-haired back, Newsweek reported: "For more than three decades...[Imus] had spilled countless words into the ether, many of them crude, tasteless, racially charged and inteded to insult. Most of them simply evaporated." Words that evaporate. How convenient.

Civility in writing requires an awareness that words matter. It also requires remembrance, the ability to see that our present is but our future past, and that we will live tomorrow with the words we say today. Indeed, the best and worst of words often outlive their source. Choose wisely.
As a young student, I’d sometimes attempt to write in the style of the author I was reading. I did the same thing later as a teacher. If I was teaching Shakespeare, I’d write a sonnet and so on. While studying Edgar Allan Poe, I wrote this dramatic monologue of an old man who is visited at his death bed by the hateful words of his life. (It's a little cheezy. I was young. As Emily Dickinson would say, “Judge tenderly of me.”)

Visitors at Death Proverbs 6:2

“Back like a phantom in the night!
Without a chance to slip from sight...
you’ve caught me unaware,
and as I see you hov’ring there,
I note you’ve changed—quite for the worse—
and have come back like a chanted curse
that echoes through my soul.
You who I could not control.
You who trickled o’r my lip
and who this very tongue tip
pushed into the air
now rise so boldly there.

Well, look at me a good long look.
I’ve changed some since the glance you took
before you entered other’s ears.
I’ve changed some o’r the years.
And you knew just when to return—
just when and how hot to burn
like coals inside my head
and ring like bells to raise the dead!

Dear God, I wish I’d never learned
the words that have against me turned.
I wish I’d never learned to speak
or that I knew that words could sneak
back as these have done.
I never would have spoken one.”
© Copyright 1977, TK,Patterns of Ink
Speaking of words that outlive those who wrote them... the forthcoming Part III-B is a fascinating read—not because I’m posted it—but because it contains many samples of writings that were not intended for us to see. It has been very moving as I've pulled it together these past few weeks. Have Kleenex handy.

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Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Your "Why Bloggers Blog" posts keep getting better. So many people want to be "right" about an issue; They no longer care about listening to the other side. Blogging, for the most part, gives people a chance to express their views through their writing and anxiously wait for the responses of other bloggers.

18/4/07 9:54 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

As you know, I've had my share of controversy and 'words flying' on my blog which could hit me in different ways, and I have had to put much thought into the words I type in response. {I have spent time debating even whether comments warrant my words at times...} As a communications major, and as a lover of typestyles and one who has always loved writing letters and such, this post was of great interest to me. I enjoyed your poem and your thoughts, and the story of your interactions with Cavuto via email. What I remember so clearly from my years in church and SS, and later in college, were how many verses in Scripture are devoted to our "tongues" and our words, and how what is in our hearts is what comes out. I think people tend to downplay the power of words and often forget the fact that the tongue is sharper than a two-edged sword, and the wise person guards his words and such. Add to that {especially in American society} that everyone feels they have the right to 'free speech", which in turn gets twisted to mean, "I can say anything I want to (*cough, Imus, cough*) and you have a society that is moving ever-further from the reality that words do indeed matter.
What I am finding in my own experience, is that the Scriptures are true. Just last week, one of my "gentle posts" turned into a powerful testimony of who God is, and I had a blogger ask me for forgiveness...that God convicted them and made them see the hurtful truth in their chosen words. Had I been critical or judgemental or harsh, I most likely would have only heightened the misconception that this person held of me. I thank God that so many times in my life, I have had the insight to ask for wisdom BEFORE opening my mouth, and for help to say the right thing. I am finding it is easier to say the "right words" the first time around, than to have to try to heal the wounds I've created by misspoken words from my mouth.
I am glad that I have chosen to keep the comments available to my bloggers...not because the comments are always supportive and positive, but because it allows for a bit of 'dialogue'. I have come to realize that Christ didn't only come to share His message with those who agreed with Him and walked with Him, but He came to interact and live among those who DIDn't always appreciate the things He had to say, or the way He chose to say them. I think these posts on blogging and words, is so fitting for the sermon series on "Justice & Mercy". I know the things I say to people and about people tells a lot about the way I 'see'other people. My mouth and heart both have a long way to go yet, as I seek to follow Christ in action and in words.

18/4/07 10:55 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

I like Neal Cavuto. He seems like an intelligent man. And how about that widow's peak!

I guess we all say things we wish we had not. I know I have. I try to choose my words carefully, but I am not always successful. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me at that moment. I think I am getting better at it though.

The thing about words is that you can't throw them away. Once they are out there, they are out there for good. The best you can do is apologize. Sometimes a heartfelt apology makes up for any hurt or misunderstanding your words might have caused.

I look forward to your 19th Century letter writing segment (PartIII-B). I may try to do a post similar to yours at my blog. When I found that 1903 letter in the attic of the house my dad had purchased, I also found an old book The Royal Path of Life (1876). It is all about how people should conduct their lives in order to achieve success and happiness. It covers everything from birth to death and in between. You really get a good idea of how people thought back then during the Victorian period and what was important to them. Civility was important to them for one thing.

One last note...JG had some flattering things to say about me in her comment to your previous post. I am really a very mean person though. (just kidding) This woman is very special to me. We have forged an online friendship that I cherish. She has been there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on, and I have been there for her. Indeed, she is a warrior, but that quality is what makes her writings so powerful at times. I could use a little warrior in me.

18/4/07 11:34 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for your encouragement. There are two posts left. I'll try to keep them "good reads." This has been an incredibly helpful study for me. Thanks for your steady input.

Yes, indeed, you have had a few drive by eruptions in "commentland."
Scripture does say a lot about controling our tongue. I wrote the poem (which had never been typed on a computer until tonight) my sophomore year long before the internet and blogs, etc. so it was about spoken words. This series of posts has been about writing/blogging/commenting.
It's commendible that, like Cavuto, you have taken to heart some harsh comments and learned from them. I think it's good to keep comments open. Blogging would not be blogging without them. Which BTW is a main point in Part IV.

Yes, I saw that compliment and I don't doubt it. It was yours and J_G's comments that prompted this "insert" post before the the main part of III. It has been very interesting that these posts evolved in some ways due to the feedback they have gotten. That is one of the wonderful dynamics of blogging. Thanks for participating.

Please join in. Don't let these long comments scare you. =)

19/4/07 12:33 AM  
Blogger Josie said...

This is a fabulous topic and I like the way you have handled it. I have had some experiences in blogging that I would not have expected. I have always tried to be "civil", (your topic in your last post) even when I am disagreeing with someone else's particular point of view. It's just common courtesy, and I communicate the same way on the blogs as I do in real life, with respect for the other person. Anything less is unacceptable. I have, however, experienced some unfortunate interactions from other bloggers. One experience I had was bizarre and surreal, and I am very soon going to do a post about it. I was blindsided and it was humiliating. And it was very much a "You've Got Mail" experience. So the blogging world can be as "real" as the real world in its relationships.

And your poem is not cheesy at all. It's actually quite good. It has an Emily Dickinson quality about it, as well as Poe.

And may I say, thank you for inviting us to participate in this forum. It's very interesting.


19/4/07 1:30 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for not thinking those lines written my last year as a teen were "cheesy." =) I never intended to show them here, but I remembered it as I wrote Wednesday night.
You're right. This has been an interesting topic. I'm hoping to get more feedback from the less traveled branches of blog tree.
(Not that I think we're all up a tree--or "out of our trees" for that matter.)

19/4/07 7:29 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Of course this is as true for the rest of life as it is for blogging. One must never speak to hurt.

19/4/07 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't watched TV news for a while, but I do own that Hanks-Ryan movie and the zinger conversation is so true. I told you before that I am just a blog reader not a writer. I would bet there are more of us than you bloggers think. We are the silent majority. Ha Ha Take your time and hurry up on the next part.

19/4/07 7:54 PM  
Anonymous islandgrovepress said...

Excellent post.

I had thought at first to echo something my editors had been telling me for years, "good, but a tad long."

This is not too long at all, and it opens up so many other avenues of thought.


19/4/07 8:37 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
Thank you for today's hat tip, and "Welcome" to any readers who have come as a result. Please join in.

I don't have a "counter" so I only know people stop by if they leave a comment, so thanks for the frequent footprints.

I appreciate your professional input. My peers and teaching staff would smile at the phrase "a tad long." I'm working on it and grateful that this one made it under the wire. I'm learning to break posts into parts or chapters.
As you know, a "short story" of 2,500 words is normal, but on blog it looks like a long read.
Part III-B will look long because it is an anthology of sorts with many excerpts, but I think it will be an interesting post.

19/4/07 9:26 PM  
Blogger EAMonroe said...

Tom, I am enjoying your "Why Bloggers Blog" series. I wish more people would take their words to heart.

19/4/07 10:21 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, I find myself becoming more "shy" on the blogs because I am always afraid I have offended someone. I tend to be quite extroverted in real life, but I feel when people can't hear my tone of voice or see my expression, they misunderstand what I am saying, and then I feel bad. I think that has happened a couple of times. It can be a "fine line". Blogging is very much a social network and none of us wants to offend anyone. I had formed a couple of friendships that were important to me, and they just seemed to disappear and it puzzled me. That doesn't happen with my friends in "real" life, just the opposite in fact. So blogging does require a different sort of social finesse.


20/4/07 12:20 AM  
Blogger J_G said...

Tom, I've watched Neal Cavuto for quite some time now. He strikes me as someone that is very deliberate in his thoughts but like the rest of us he is succeptible to outbreaks of anger and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I cannot remember which disease that Neal has, I think it is MS but don't quote me on that. Anyway, he did an opinion piece at the end of one of his shows and exclaimed he would not make excuses for his failures because of his disease and was not going to let it make him a slave to it's symptoms and difficulties. Neal chastised those that complain they cannot get anywhere because of their disease and he went on in that vein for a little while longer.

On the next show he read some of the hate mail that he got for telling people to stand up and take charge of their lives instead letting the disease define their lives. It brought a tear to my eye to see what a brave person he is and how he is willing to stand up not only to his disease but to those that beleive themselves to be nothing more than victims and those that teach these people they are nothing but victims.

I think Neal is a stand up guy. I consider his opinions to be valid even if I don't always agree with him.

The other point I wanted to make when I got distracted talking about Neal was; We all, at some time in our lives do or say the wrong things out of anger, disappointment, confusion and misunderstanding but the true test of character is being able to admit when we are wrong and take the proper corrective action apologetically and honorably.

20/4/07 9:33 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

My, my, my... this has become a very popular place. I knew word would get out a some point. I admire you for being such a great "listener". You always find a kind word to share for each of your readers. I do not think it is just being civil as you mentioned in a previous blog. I think you are a true gentleman with a big heart... and it comes through, even when you just use words! I thank you for blessing my life.

Wedding plans; invitations are here and I am working on "the list'.

And a big southern good-bye... y'all have a great weekend now, you hear!

20/4/07 11:33 AM  
Blogger goatman said...

You certainly are a prolific fellow. Thanks for visiting my petty attempt at bloggery and for the invite to comment on yours.
I am constantly amazed at how blogging holds my attention, presents other views on innumerable topics (I was turned onto music that I had never heard the other day and just love the new album), and invites me to return to see how others respond to a presentation. Blogging allows considered discourse as opposed to that so often encountered in the world of day to day physical contacts. One has time to mull over a response and present an intertesting backatcha, one hopes.
I am also surprised that there are these setups to allow free blogging. Wonder when the other shoe drops on that particular joy.

I must now go cut the grass and mull over a response to a response. Bye

20/4/07 1:57 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for stopping by and taking these thoughts to heart.

You are the first to mention a very real limitation to blogging, e-chat, comments, etc. The tone is very conversational,but the non-verbal elements of communication (inflection, eye-contact, proximics, etc.) are assumed rather than observed. So one person may be talking away on the front porch of cyberspace, and the person on the other end may be in a bad mood or sitting with his wife or watching a ball game while perusing blogs, etc.
This may not be a popular thing to say in the blogosphere of adults, but we caution our kids about Myspace because there may be so many "unknowns" under the surface--more about that in Part IV. I'm sorry that you have had these experiences, but you can only learn from them and move on.
Keep smiling and soaking in the Vancouver sunshine!

You are right he is both a cancer survivor and he has MS. (It's in the Wikipedia link with his name in the first paragraph.) All show host have got to have little hootspa (never spelled that before in my life, but I'm pretty sure that is NOT how to spell it), and he has it sometimes, but I was impressed with is civil response to me. And you are right... I tell my teachers, life is not about finding a problem free setting--it's about properly addressing problems (including our own mistakes) when they come up. Thanks for your thoughtful input and helpful "updates" at your blog.

Nancy, Hey, Y'all back!
What an internet encourager you are to so many!
Thanks for joining in often.
By the way, "The list" is the hard part. =)

Thanks for providing some additional male perspective. You hit the nail on the head. This type of discourse may lack the non-verbal (as Josie was saying), but it does provide time to ponder before speaking. There is always wisdom in doing that.

20/4/07 5:50 PM  
Blogger Tracie said...

Tom, I have to say that reading your blog is like the college I never had but in a different realm! I just love coming here! I have always spoken what I feel...always. Afterwards sometimes I would feel like it was wrong but other times I didn't. I have been a stay at home/work at home mom for almost 14 years so adult conversation is something I don't get on a daily basis so I continue talking and relating to people like I did in high school...crass and obtuse.(I had to look those words up to make sure they meant what I wanted them to mean!)
I was talking about uneducated people that make comments to me about changing churches in one of my earlier posts and I'm just as uneducated as they are. I tend to throw my feelings out there and just expect people to deal with them no matter what they think. Through our recent decision to move to a different church I've realized that I cannot always do that...say what I think. My dearest friend and mentor told me one night...as I was losing my mind to her over things that had transpired...that 'I didn't need to say anything.' At the time I asked her 'but how are people going to know?' And her reply hit me so hard that I woke up and have since been desperately trying to remember what to say when and if to say anything at all. She said simply 'That's not your job. That's Gods job. Trust Him.' I don't have to say things that will hurt people just to make them see what I BELIEVE they are doing wrong. Now, I know that this probably makes no sense and shouldn't even be here but I'm honestly learning as I go and right now you are the teacher. :O) To sum it up, I am learning that I don't have to say every single thing that comes to my mind. Ok..so I still communicate like I was in high school..I need to go forward and learn from what I'm being taught and not ignore it. There are soooo many situations that I've been in lately that can ONLY be God testing me to see what I'll say or do. When I encounter a situation like that I remember what I'm suppose to do. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 KJV

Blessed are they that put their trust in him.
Psalm 2:12 KJV

14/5/07 10:58 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Later on in life, when we'd all come home as adults, my mom used to confess that she sometimes felt less comfortable talking around the table because we had all graduated from college and she never went. I felt horrible, and yet it was something we were not sensitive to at the time.
So never feel "less" because of not going to college. Degrees are man-made mile markers. Education is a process not a product. You never stop "learning," and life is the best place to do it. (Lots of highly degreed professors are so academic that they would marvel at your thoughts "in real life" as you go through a typical day.) The day we decide to quit learning... maybe then we should feel like "less," but you have clearly not done that.

Your friend's advice was excellent, and we all need to remember it. When you said, "and her reply hit me so hard that I woke up"... it reminded me of a short piece called "The Hardest Kind of Learning" I think I'll post it at the end of May.

26/5/07 9:35 AM  

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