I Keen; Therefore, I Am.


Playing the game alone

My wife and I often take field walks on Sunday to assess the state of the pasture, the grass, the woods, the water–in other words the full catastrophe that has been this winter. And, of course, we wanted to hear the peepers at the Gates of Dawn.

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In the wetlands by Bacon Creek we muck about in our boots, drawn toward the keening of the peepers. Yet…you cannot see a single one even though you hear them all about. You cannot see a peep. Hence the quote above from James Carse.

Here is the paradox. Most of the time online, I feel both utterly alone and surrounded just like I do when I visit the peepers in the spring. I cannot see my ‘peeps’ yet I can hear them singing. But it is confounding. I want to hold both in my heart simultaneously, but can’t. I cycle between desolation and habitation much like the move from winter to spring. I understand this in the natural world. I do not understand this online.

Can I have faith that the peepers are there and lifting me up even though I cannot see them?  Is Carse right in saying that “we cannot relate to anyone who is not also relating to us” ? Are my peeps relating to me and I know it not?

This is not a trivial matter. It applies to all communities. It just seems particularly apt to my digital ones right now. If I hear them keening, is that enough to be in communion. Sometimes yes, other times no. I am alternating current seeking the ground of community be that natural or home-made.

Right now, I ain’t feelin’ it. But not to worry. The infinite game abounds. Keening and caring and connected even though I cannot see it. The peepers at the Gates of Dawn abide with me.

Screw it, let’s go on another feldgang


31 thoughts on “I Keen; Therefore, I Am.

  1. My thoughts have been in harmony with this post of late, especially since I read this Bakhtin quote: “I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another.” I do believe I will have to pick up this Carse text!

    1. So we can translate Descartes this way via Bakhtin: Others are; therefore, I am. Cool. ‘Tis true, I’ll know I am dead when I no longer no others. I suppose that is also the definition of a zombie, the undead person who no longer acknowledges any other desire other than his or her own.

  2. Beautifully said, as usual, Terry. Coincidentally, I, too, am not feeling – or, more aptly, hearing – the keening. I often place the blame/burden on myself – I don’t make enough time to connect with those who’ve meant and continue to mean so much to me in my professional and personal life lived online. What is the equivalent antidote in the virtual space of bowling alone? Perhaps a series of online hangouts with no purpose other than to be together?

  3. and how much connection do we need
    to feel connected in spaces that don’t
    without a few voices wandering the woods?

    there is solitude in the thinking even though we
    in the reverberations of others, a keening,
    a calling back to our ideas

    and we might only
    in the soft paper note we stuffed into the tree trunk last night
    just as the sun was crawling into the mountains
    and the last bird chirped before silence

    settled in.

  4. I too feel some kind of void right now. For me, it may be the disconnect between my offline life of near complete isolation and my online life of…something more connected, but not always in a way that is fulfilling.

    When I lived in the midst of masses of people, I did not relate much to any of them. Maybe the distant keening was enough. Now that I am by myself, I long for f2f community and connection.

    Or maybe (probably) I don’t truly.

    Maybe it’s just the change of seasons.

    At any rate, I miss talking with you more regularly.

    Paul, I think there might be nothing nicer than online hangouts with no purpose other than being together. Much better than bowling, either alone or with others.

    1. Maybe we all need to Twitter stream with Meerkat? Just a thought.

      I am not nearly as geographically isolated as you are, but I feel it sometimes in these greening hills and hollars. The keening is always there, the question becomes whether it is enough. When it isn’t enough, it just makes me so mad.

  5. Beautifully written as always, Terry. Interestingly, I often feel connected to you in spite of not necessarily recently having a direct connection. I think of you often. My daughter is in Washington State working at a dwarf Nubian goat farm, I have your sunflower seeds to plant, memes, cMOOCs, sunsets, stars, blogs —- so often I think of you. I wish I could more often help you feel connected. The school year has been a tragicomic series of semi-disasters, so I often have no time to do the online connections I wish I could.

    “What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 million years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever.”
    Seth Godin

    1. I am grateful to have you as part of my tribe, but I have felt your concentration is elsewhere. As it has often been for me–a full catastrophe. We will have a drum circle down the road. I know we will.

  6. Hi Terry,

    I hear the peepers too…and miss opportunities for more direct interaction. And even when I don’t respond (with way too many excuses for not connecting), I am there… It’s comforting to you all of you are out there…and I miss you guys! I love the way all of you push my thinking, challenge my assumptions, urge me to action that I might not otherwise rise to.

    Thanks for rattling and voicing what often goes unsaid.


  7. Terry, as usual, you’ve managed to express feelings so blurred and hidden in the everyday bustle of life offline that sometimes can only surface with the gentle nudge of some poetry, or poetic prose.

    I hear you.

    Thank you for nudging the surge from within, always.


    1. Love the all caps. Sometimes my role as shepherd feels like an all caps command on my time. Might as well start making lamb and sheep memes, but, honestly, it takes four sheep to make a sheep which memes a bit…baroque?

  8. Hi Terry..I did see this post a while back when you wrote it. It resonated with me, but I’m only just taking the time to reflect now on why. I think the constant noise and chatter that exists online is a familiar concept to us all; as is the sentiment that online connection can often be transient, fleeting and erratic. Everyone always seems just a Bit distracted online…and regardless of how close we sometimes feel to people online, these relationships can somehow, still lack the ‘presence’ of offline relationships. I wonder why…is it because we can always walk away from an online interaction or relationship; choose when – or not- to engage? You can of course do the same with offline relationships, but it’s usually that much harder.

    I’ve cut back a bit on my online interaction this year, mainly because there are some key in-person relationships that are important to me which I need (or CHOOSE) to invest time in. And it’s interesting…it seems that your online life and your offline life tend to be two separate things – I’ve found, at least that when I invest a lot in one, I’m neglecting the other; it’s hard to find that balance sometimes.

    Maybe it’s about expectations…is it too much to expect to feel the connection always?

    Or maybe Carse is right: “we cannot relate to anyone who is not also relating to us” …it’s an intriguing concept, and one that has me thinking.

    I can, at least say this much: Thanks for always making me FEEL as well as think.

    1. Sweet and thoughtful thinking. I am grateful. We do treat online and offline relations differently. Why? Can we/should we treat them differently?

      Have you read about the ‘four burners; theory? I wrote about it here: http://rhetcompnow.com/responding/the-quandary-of-connection-and-attention/ while also whining about being ignored.

      In social capital theory they talk about two different kinds of connection–bridging and bonding. Bridging connects disparate folk, bonding connects within existing groups. Prehaps online is always ‘bridging’ and F2F is bonding. Just a theory. I think another word for relating might be reciprocation. My mama would just call it being polite–if somebody ‘attends’ to you, you attend back?

      1. Thanks for the link to your other post, Terry – I read it and all 40 comments!! The concepts of the 4 burners is interesting…I realised about 6 months ago that my time online was definitely distracting and detracting from my family life …and at times doing the juggle between online-family & work would detract from my health (e.g. lack of sleep, not eating well etc). As for friends…well that has always suffered in lieu of the other three. As to how I characterise the online stuff – I guess I started online for professional reasons so strictly speaking it is part of my ‘work’…but as you start to know people online, the borders do blur between ‘work’ and ‘friends’.
        Still….it comes down to perhaps that difference between online and in-person connection. I have always felt that there is some sort of qualitative difference between online communication / connection and in-person / face to face communication / connection. I think you can come to FEEL an emotional connection online that is just as strong as a feeling towards someone that you might develop in person…but…there will often be that desire to MEET in person. Why? Maybe it is as you suggest – the bonding is only ever truly achieved in person. Perhaps we haven’t quite evolved as humans at the pace that technology has….

        To me – ‘relating’ implies some sort of emotive connection – feeling, empathy – so for me, more than just ‘attending’ or ‘reciprocating’ – perhaps listening and attempting to understand…?

        Interesting and intriguing thoughts and questions.

        1. All those “ing” words, so present yet so absent. I think that you may be absolutely right that this may be a question of the pace of change, but once I finally get the cyborg implant I will fer sher be a better human being. Dang, another one of this ‘ing’ words. 😉

          1. ‘ing’ words present yet absent. Interesting: action may not necessarily imply or include attention. Like nodding and smiling with vacant eyes…
            I’ve been thinkong about this conversation over the last few days (…& probably will continue so beyond…) I like the conversations that continue to slow burn, embers that continue to burn & be stoked in the mind (& heart…?). We tend to drop grenades then run to the next (post/comment/activity/thing) these days…sometimes too busy to return…& attend. Both online & off. You’ve got me returning to these themes, & mulling over them. I like that.

  9. Thank you to Tanya for leading me to Terry’s thought provoking blog post. Tanya, our friendship is a case in point. We met online through shared interests almost a year ago and since then have enjoyed perhaps 3 brief face to face encounters. I feel that I know you better than many people who have been part of my offline world for years. Sometimes the layers that I find often get in the way of real connection when meeting someone face to face initially don’t exist or peel back quicker online. My life is much richer for having connected (in the fuller human sense of the word) with you and many others online over the past year. Some of these people I may never meet (although I would like to in order to increase the bond as you highlight). They remain valued people in my life, expanding it.

    Yes, to it’s important to nurture all of the important relationships on our life so that we may truly be fully alive and live with meaning. It’s a matter of judging which relationships to put what sort of attention and time into at any point in time. That is as true for me with all my relationships, regardless of whether the interactions are conducted mostly online or offline. All are part of a rich life.

    Thank you for your post Terry. Now that I have been introduced to you I look forward to reading more and getting to know you.

    1. It’s so much fun setting a table for two fine folk from Oz to partake. Reminds me of a story I shall have to tell sometime about a Chinese student and an Armenian student singing the old Soviet national anthem in my office in Kentucky. No, you really can’t make this up. Thanks, Michelle. And I look forward to reciprocating and bridging and bonding.

    2. Michelle…thank you for your comments – so sweet and I’m touched (have read several times already!). Yes – I have been amazed over the last couple of years I’ve started connecting online, at how effective regular online contact/ conversations exploring common interests with people who care, can be in igniting genuine relationships, collaborations & friendships. And I guess the key is online you meet – & often intentionally seek out – people with common interests, who inspire, challenge & are equally passionate about the things you also care about. So that alone generally puts you ahead of most people you happen to encounter offline (eg. work colleagues, neighbours, other parents etc…).
      Your point about feeling like you know your online connections better than most of your offline ones is interesting – & probably true for me too, when I stop to consider this. I am conscious that we always curate our online identities – so don’t think you can ever truly *know* someone online – however, I definitely think it’s possible to get very close (usually through both public & private convos over an extended period of time), especially with people who are prepared to share openly.
      Oh yes and your online life will definitely be enriched through reading & conversing with Terry. He is one of those (increasingly rare I think!) individuals who writes in a way that makes you Feel as well as think. You definitely should check out his zeegas too.

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