Someone whose blog I read has not been writing much recently. When she wrote about how difficult she was finding it to write because she’s going through big life changes, interestingly there was a chorus of responses from others feeling the same way. That made me feel less unique.
But one person wrote: ‘My writing, in this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet, is what keeps me strong.’ I love that mix of adjectives – it says it all, and in a way it’s that mix of adjectives that is at the root of my own silence and inability to write.
My blog was a year old yesterday and I feel I need to write something although I am kicking and screaming not to! I have wanted to write on my blog for a few weeks now but have felt unable to, for a mixture of reasons, largely to do with things going on in the world of e-mail and other virtual communications, that have proved difficult to deal with.
I am not very good at conflict. I run lots of workshops on it, perhaps as a result. ‘Conflict’ is one of those words that most people react to. Many people associate it with negativity and words like hostility, aggression, discomfort and even ‘nuclear war’ have been provided to me as first associations. A few people have neutral or even positive responses to it, seeing conflict or disagreement or different perspectives as a source of creativity and interest – a resource for stimulating discussions and explorations, for discovery and breakthrough. I tend to share this second view but there are some essential ingredients required to make conflict be such a positive experience.
the maturity of all engaged (people behaving like adults, not parents or children; here I’m speaking from a transactional analysis frame of reference – Eric Berne)
a welcoming of difference and, even more, a feeling of safety with difference
a vision of a positive relationship and outcome.
If you don’t have even one of those prerequisites, you’re on to a loser. You won’t be able to make it work.
‘Virtual conflict’ – you hear a lot about it – people who write aggressive, inappropriate comments on the internet and live to regret it, with indelible eternal slurs on their character as a legacy.
But just as in real-life there’s passive-aggressive not just aggressive-aggressive, so on the internet there are far more subtle types of conflict and aggression.
Going back to that phrase – ‘this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet’. How different is this space from life? Life itself is an oddly open space, and you can find yourself deceived, betraved, supported, and surprised in life just as on the net. But….it’s that sense of an invisible audience that the internet offers that is particularly disconcerting.
The performance/audience aspect of the net is also what makes it strangely fascinating. A moment of behaviour passes in life. On the internet it’s eternal. Anyone can observe it in real-time or nearly real-time, and posterity starts the moment afterwards. In life people have memories, and memories transform and confuse and muddle. Sometimes they also soften. The internet has an unforgiving memory. It’s all there tomorrow as it is today. Past is forever present. In that sense, the internet is inherently Eastern like TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
TS Eliot – Burnt Norton
Fox watching cat - photo by Chris Hill
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking myself, why am I here? And I’ve been revisiting all over again why I started to write this blog – to reactivate my own reflective writing which has grown dormant over recent years and to stimulate discussion in a community of interested people. I feel I’ve succeeded with the first of these objectives and occasionally with the second, which is outside my control.
I have loved my blog from the outset, and loved the people I’ve met through it as well as those I already know who show other dimensions on it, and the comments I’ve read here are invaluable. I also find discussion groups hugely energising and they help me crystallise my thinking. The potential for others to join in and the learning to magnify and multiply is exciting, though that promise often remains unfulfilled.
I think this has just been a time of reflective silence. I see small flowers pushing through the long grass.
Goosegrass, stitchwort nettles - Portishead - photo by Chris Hill