Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THIS I BELIEVE: "BRANDING" IS THE ANTI-CHRIST









A reader named Tom recently wrote:

Hi Heather, thought I'd share a little of my journal since I wrote about you!:

Kind of off-putting to read [an apparently popular Catholic blogger's] latest post, so rife as it is with salesmanship and branding (the latter not the kind you used to do to cattle but what you do to and for yourself). He links to a blogger who tells you how to get more readers, a subject that utterly bores me. You are who you are, and you either find an audience or you don't. The great joy of blogging is precisely that with it - unlike just about every other area of your life - you don't have to conform to the expectations of others.

Part of my attraction to Heather King is her semi-fatal "anti-branding" tendency, her refusal to be co-opted by labels of "left" or "right" or water down her message to appeal to the masses. Part of branding is consistency (i.e. "don't surprise anyone") , punchy posts, and a complete lack of eccentricity, but Heather's are eclectic and leisurely meandering, and sometimes punctuated by homemade photos or unfamiliar lyrics from long forgotten songs. I've always been a fan of the homemade, the local, the "Other", the surprising, the real"...


I considered this high praise indeed and I must say I was kind of tickled that anyone would write about me in his or her journal (especially as I write about so MANY people in my own, though usually with not nearly so much kindness).

I replied, in part:

I really came to blogging because I had so much material and I was sick of sending the pieces out one by one and waiting months to get an answer (often a rejection). So though of course I am always scrambling to earn a livelihood (fyi, the blog brought in maybe two grand in donations the whole year), in a way it started out and has remained a kind of spontaneous (though I spend hours and hours a week at it) eruption of love...I think to love Christ is to be fully human. Not a brand, not a shill for yourself as opposed to Christ, not an entrepreneur whose "product" is the Gospels. You can't promote the Cross...

But you can, and in fact perhaps are obliged to, promote your own original thought, expression, work etc. Interestingly, the same week I received an email from another reader, this one named Bob:

"I found you recently via Magnificat. Since that ‘Meditation of the Day’, I purchased Shirt of Flame, finished it, and just started reading it a second time...I also enjoy blog very much. In fact, your blog prompted my email today. Have you ever considered posting your blog in tumblr?

I stumbled onto tumblr recently while attempting to become more ‘social media’ literate. If you’re not familiar with it, I would encourage spending some time there. It has strong artistic overtones, and much of its content is first rate. It’s also edgy and youthful, it seems to be a popular medium for youth venting and expression, some of which is tasteful and some of which is not.

My (limited) research indicates that it is sorely missing the kind of practical, thoughtful and insightful spirituality that I found in ‘Shirt of Flame’ and on your blog. In short, I think you’re needed in the tumblr community and encourage you to consider blogging there as well."


I had heard of tumblr. [And wondered why on God's green earth they annoyingly deleted the "e"]. And upon receiving Bob's email I took a quick look and, as I told him, quailed. As with twitter, I sort of can't get my mind around what it even is. On the other hand, he may be right that the time has come for home-made photos, lyrics to arcane songs, eccentricity, the surprising, the "real," and a practicing, ardent Catholic with a blog that is something other than a marketplace.

So I asked if I could post his email as a kind of call--I'm thinking maybe there's someone out there with a "semi-fatal, anti-branding" sensibility similar to mine who is conversant with tumblr and would be willing to get Shirt of Flame (the blog) up? If so, lemme know...

AREN'T THESE CRAZY BEAUTIFUL, ESSENCE-OF-ORCHID PIX?
I TOOK THEM ONE RECENT MORNING AT THE THEATER WHERE
I TEACH WRITING SAT. MORNINGS.
THERE WAS A VASE OF THEM AGAINST A BLACK VELVET CURTAIN
AND...

11 comments:

  1. Dear Heather,

    In Thanksgiving for YOU, I send this Wendell Berry poem that a dear friend shared as his Thanksgiving greeting:

    From Given -- "Sabbaths, 1999

    Again I resume the long
    lesson: how small a thing
    can be pleasing, how little
    in this hard world it takes
    to satisfy the mind
    and bring it to rest.

    Within the ongoing havoc
    the woods this morning is
    almost unnaturally still.
    Through stalled air, unshadowed
    light, a few leaves fall
    of their own weight.

    The sky
    is gray. It begins in mist
    almost at the ground
    and rises forever. The trees
    rise in silence almost
    natural, but not quite,
    almost eternal, but
    not quite.

    What more did I
    think I wanted? Here is
    what has always been.
    Here is what will always
    be. Even in me,
    the Maker of all this
    returns in rest, even
    to the slightest of His works,
    a yellow leaf slowly
    falling, and is pleased.

    Wendell Berry

    How this reminds me of your mysterious and wonderful photos, and so much that is you.

    In thanksgiving,

    MB

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  2. Hey there, Heather!

    About tumblr: I beseech thee with all the ardour of my soul to stay the heck off tumblr. There are all kinds of things on tumblr, and few of them good: wild-eyed enthusiasts for the David Koresh-like figure who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; Romneyite Catholics (for whom I have some sympathy) who apparently believe that voting GOP is the unum necessarium; black supremacists; white supremacists; atheists (some of whom are OK); libertarians (ditto); bad art; good art; obscenity-mongers. Some really good Orthodox Christian blogs, though. Still. Let others have tumblr, I say. I explored it for a few months, but I think I'm off it for good.

    And allow me to append (more for the sake of your readers, Heather) that though I am not the Tom who send you the anti-branding e-mail, I do agree with it, and with his praise of the ever-eclectic Shirt of Flame!

    Peace to you and to all (the far and the near) ...

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  3. Really? Is tumblr grotesque? See, this is just why I asked--I don't have time to spend trolling around the damn thing. Thanks for your take on it, Tom, and people, if you know anything about it, let me know what you all think as well. Every once in awhile I come out of my shell and look around...usually only to have it confirmed, Go back in...I would always rather spend my time pondering and writing, and I do think in the end that is what will "reach" people, if the good Lord ordains they'll be reached, or moved, or invited to come closer to Him...Meanwhile, of course, I get to look at the flowers myself...

    Mary Beth! You are a treasure. I love the Wendell Berry poem. "The sky is gray./ It begins in mist almost at the ground and rises forever"...dawn is breaking here in L.A. I'm looking forward to a contemplative Thanksgiving--much love to you and your family--in fact to everyone!...

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  5. I wouldn't say "grotesque," but I would say it's trivial most of the time, and contentious the rest of the time. It takes a strong soul not to be dragged into the less noble aspects of tumblr.

    But those who have noted that there is beauty to be found, especially among the tumblr-blogs dedicated to art, are not wrong. I may have been a mite strong in my negative assessment, but that's me: I am easily dragged into the contentious and trivial aspects of the internet, and tumblr exacerbated that tendency.

    Mary Beth, I'd like to add my thanks to Heather's for the lovely poem by Wendell Berry. That image of the yellow leaf -- "the slightest of His works" -- does stay with one.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Heather, to you and to all your visitors!

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  6. I think tumblr is like a kaleidoscope and about as useful.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  7. Off topic, but it is Thanksgiving. Song at Mass this am.
    Thought of you Heather and threw up a prayer. Check it out:

    This is my Song lyrics for the unforgettable Finlandia Hymn.

    This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
    a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
    This is my home, the country where my heart is;
    here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
    but other hearts in other lands are beating
    with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

    My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
    and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
    But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
    and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
    This is my song, oh God of all the nations;
    a song of peace for their land and for mine.

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  8. Tumblr is a different medium. The only way to understand tumblr is to start, and see where the Spirit leads you. It won't be the same as your blogging voice, and it might not be for you. But it's easy enough to begin, and find out.

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  9. Jeannie, you are just right! I can explore on my own if the spirit moves--in fact, I just put up a little something--feel my way, and see if it's for me...thank you.

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  10. I don't think Tumblr is any different from blogger, except that it tends to attract a certain kind of crowd and encourages more brief kinds of posts...pictures, poems, quotes, etc, although it won't prevent you from publishing long form text.

    You will find a little bit of everything there just like on blogger or any blogging platform. You aren't forced to read anything you don't want to. In that respect, it's like anything else on the Internet.

    It could be something to compliment Shirt of Flame, and bring others back here for more.

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  11. Thanks, Brian, I've checked it out a bit and kind of like the formatting possibilities (though I can see myself obsessively spending hours and hours setting up a site there...). As I said, I even set up a little site called Holy Hell that I may spend some time building down the line. I agree, from what I saw there's some interesting stuff, just as there is everywhere...really a matter of time and energy constraints. Again, thanks for weighing in.

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I WELCOME your comments!!!