About

Hello, and welcome to my blog!

I thought of this as a place to expound, at greater length, on topics I can only touch upon on Twitter, which quickly became my preferred mode of expression some months ago.

Those of you who’ve known me from a while back might remember I used to have a blog here under a very similar web address. I deleted it, feeling it was more of an obstacle at this point to clear thinking and writing, and decided to start anew when I got some fresh ideas and the writing bug bit me again.

The blog used to have a title that is a Latin expression for “the irresistible urge to write.” After searching long and hard for a title, this is the only one that’s ever grabbed me at first sight. When I came across it not too long ago, I wanted to shout “that’s me – that’s been me ever since the eighth grade!”

And yes, it’s in Latin. You’ll find an extended meditation on what Latin means to me here. Two things suffice to say on that topic for now.

One is that I wish we lived in a time when Latin quotations didn’t raise an eyebrow, and when the person who used them didn’t automatically have to defend herself against charges of elitism and intellectual snobbery.

The other is that my use of Latin is my semi-in-your-face way of saying that the language is pretty damn cool, far from dead, and that you can use and appreciate it just fine without looking down your nose at people who don’t know it, don’t value it, or feel the need to call you a snob anyway.

It’s all good.

The previous title of this blog was “Nil Humanum Me Alienum Puto,” also in Latin, comes from Terence, whose famous quote I translate as: “I’m human; nothing that is human, therefore, is alien to me.” For me, it’s a reminder that we’re all human, and that while we may surprise one another from time to time (for better or worse), it’s all good. Even when it’s decidedly not. Monotheists might say here “it’s all part of the plan.”

I also take the quote to suggest we should all aspire to a certain comfort level in talking about human matters, no matter how delicate, controversial, or difficult to talk about. On Twitter, I’m forced by 140 characters to broach difficult topics mostly by way of irony, joke, or sardonic comment, and occasionally by way of vulgarity. Here, I can rely more on exposition and analysis, though I still love a colorful expression when it lands my way.

A question I get a lot is why I blog (and tweet) pseudonymously. Why not use my real name? Well, for several reasons.

One is I enjoy using a pen name. Pen names are to writers like me what roles are to actors: things that allow a certain kind of freshness, honesty, sincerity, authenticity to happen, not chase it away.

A more practical reason is that I’m in the kind of field where my effectiveness still somewhat depends on my anonymity. That’s changing, however, and I can easily imagine a time in the near future when it won’t cause too much ruckus for me professionally if people had access to more of my thoughts on politics, spirituality, and life itself.

When that happens, I’ll turn off the cloaking device. Interestingly, though, a couple of clever individuals have already managed to figure out who I am. They’ve very kindly promised to keep my given identity a secret.

Another reason for remaining more or less anonymous (though I give so much away on Twitter it’s not even funny) is that sometimes what you know or find out about someone serves as a kind of distraction from other more important things they are, or are trying to say or do. Many of us, for example, have had the experience of being related to exclusively through some part of who we are, such as our age, race, gender, accent, marital status, physical appearance, or occupation.

What I love about blogging (and Twitter in particular) is the way it shears away so many of our identifiers and allows just our words to speak. Of course, you can take this to the extreme, withholding so much information that it feels like talking to a machine or you find yourself so consumed with wanting to find out basic details that this becomes a distractor in and of itself.

So here and on Twitter I try to keep self-disclosures (in a kind of “truth in advertising” manner) to the kinds of things that anchor me on the social map, the kinds of things that matter to me, and to whatever it is I just can’t keep to myself.

That brings me to another thing. Our identities are so much a product of our upbringing and environment, isn’t it about time we took charge and created one of our own? Enter the pseudonym, character on a stage, or role in a movie or TV show.

Lastly but importantly, it seems to me we just don’t have enough secrets anymore. Everything’s public these days, especially when it comes to our public figures. Everyone seems to feel they have a “right to know” about the sex lives of celebrities and politicians, to say nothing of those who end up throwing their practices in our faces.

Sure, I’m curious (like anyone else) about the private lives of people, especially those who flaunt their morality. But that curiosity alone doesn’t authorize me to know what goes on behind closed doors.

We need our secrets, I think. Of course I’m not talking about affairs, financial misdeeds, certain kinds of moral failings, or other things that cause actual harm to people (other than just disappointing them).

I’m talking about a private life, an inner world, something off-limits, a kind of mancave for the psyche, if you will. You know, some place we go to distill our thoughts, incubate an idea, or just breathe. It’s the very notion of interiority, of a real private life which I find under attack by things like the 24-hour news cycle, the blurring of the distinctions between writing, reporting, editorializing, and gossiping, and our insistence that we have a “right to know” details of the private lives of public figures.

I also find that my writing would be a lot more sanitized if I had to put my real name next to it each time. And then what would the purpose of this kind of writing be? But then again, all that could change and soon.

If you follow me on Twitter, by the way, you probably know a ton about me already. Just a few basics: I’m in the middle of a divorce, a father of two lovely little girls, and a proud member of the world’s oldest profession.

No, not that one. Think older.

Anyway, I’ll be back periodically to update these and other pages, so stay tuned. Don’t be surprised if an article or other post undergoes significant revisions from one day (or moment) to the next, or disappears altogether. Playing with ideas is a contact sport, after all!

Feel free to leave comments, thoughts, or even ideas and suggestions for future posts.

Thanks for visiting. I hope this little trip proves to be worth your while.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. I happily, and often with a response that will not fit within 140 characters,follow you on Twitter, even though I do not know who you are, I suspect you are a Professor at a certain University in Cambridge. If I should find out who you are, I will find my way into one of your classes, somehow, sometime.

    1. Thanks so much! Truth is I used to teach, but don’t anymore. It was a joy beyond words to take the stage and interpret my field to undergrads and grad students. Closest I’ll ever get to my true vocation (stand-up), I suppose.

      As wonderful as teaching was, however, it paid quite poorly. With two kids, I’ve been extremely lucky to find employment outside of my beloved academy.

      I fantasize about a return one day, as a much older and chastened rascal. With updated jokes, even! Until then, Twitter and blogging will have to do.

      Thanks so much for your kind words and support. It means a lot, it really does. 🙂

  2. Editor? Pastor? Psychologist? Mad Man? Kerry speech writer?

    No, don’t tell us. We DO need our secrets sometimes.

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