Monday, April 17, 2006

Schopenhauer on Blogs; Playblogs v Problogs

". . . much reading robs the mind of all elasticity, as the continual pressure of a weight does a spring, and that the surest way of never having any thoughts of your own is to pick up a book every time you have a free moment. The practice of doing this is the reason erudition makes most men duller and sillier than they are by nature and robs their writings of all effectiveness: they are in Pope's words:
For ever reading, never to be read.

from "On Thinking for Yourself", Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).

I was thinking about how, for a lawyer, it makes a lot of sense to have a blog that maintains a spirit of experimentation, personality and playfulness. And then another blog that is designed to impress or advocate a particular viewpoint. Blogging not only facilitates this Jekyll and Hyde behavior, the technology is simply set up for it. For lawyers in small practices, a blog devoted to an area of interest that has no bearing on what goes on in the daily practice, whether law-related or a hobby, has got to be a fulfilling thing.

For example, I am planning to launch a "professional" blog in a matter of weeks or months. It will be devoted to a semi-scholarly inquiry into a rather narrow aspect of one area of legal practice. I hope that it will become a point of reference, a way for me to keep up on developments in the area, and a way for people who like my work product to take notice of me, a way to serve existing clients and to meet new ones.

How many of us have heard speakers move into completely irrelevant and annoying personal topics? Done well, personal topics help to illustrate a point. But when done poorly, one has the impression that the speaker has no one to share more intimate thoughts with, so is constrained to air them in an inappropriate forum - fulfilling a deep emotional need.

So I think that keeping a "Playblog" and a "Problog" would help a lawyer from running into that problem. An occasional link from Pro to Play might be appropriate for those readers interested in a more personal relationship to follow up.

The reason I thought of Schopenhauer is that I thought: I am sure that someone has already thought of all this, written it, and I'm probably going to throw out an obvious observation that anyone grounded in this technology will perceive as self-evident. But, rather than researching the heck out of it, I found solace in Schopenhauer:

"Fundamentally it is only our own basic thoughts that possess truth and life, for only these do we really understand through and through. The thoughts of another that we have read are crumbs from another's table, the cast-off clothes of an unfamiliar guest."

According to Schopenhauer, we lawyers and our citations must be getting duller and sillier by the minute. So why am I quoting a guy who says a guy who quotes has robbed his writing of all effectiveness? Most of the "best" blogs are strings of links, which are really just quotes. Nothing wrong with that, but I think Schopenhauer would say - if we don't take some risks and share some original thinking - the blogosphere will be the duller for it.

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