If I weren’t a blogger, commuting into the Loop every morning would be excruciating.
What I like about blogging is that it forces you—well, not forces you but encourages you, motivates you—to find something useful in the day. It forces you to consider what values to assign to what you’re seeing, and that in turn helps you ‘find your place’ in reality. I notice that good bloggers do this well. They create stable universes from disparate materials.
If the universe they create isn’t stable, it’s not fun to read. A certain amount of variety in a blog is fine, but if it’s really fragmented we can’t relate to it; we can’t put the pieces of the blogger’s life together in a way that makes sense, and we give up. The blogger has got to have some discipline, because it’s the blogger’s personality that gives the blog meaning.
Blogging is a search for unity and integrity amid life’s miscellany. That’s why tags are handy: they help the blogger consider how a small bit of writing speaks to larger topics and themes. I use tags to create larger meanings that my posts address indirectly.
The structure of blogging in turn helps me evaluate my photography. I’m taking more pictures than I used to, because I’ve acquired a habit of active looking. I don’t want my life to become less varied, but I do want to assign a firmer value to the things I see. Not that I want to overdo it, but a settled point of view does a lot to settle me.
Easier said than done, I must say. When I get on the el, the visual overload is overwhelming. I love seeing the city from all the vantage points of the train. When you’re in that situation, you’ve got to take pictures and ask questions later. I end up with scads of photographs. Then I ask myself what they mean. Yes, I go through the fool’s exercise of asking, what do the views from the el mean to me?
I don’t consider myself a materialist, but some of the views from the el of our magnificent city evoke a worshipful response in me. There is great beauty in Chicago’s built environment. That’s a praiseworthy human achievement, to which the glories of nature contribute, too.
There is great complexity in urban sights; a lot to ponder in that complexity, too. The photos from the el are crowded with surfaces and planes, with layers upon layers of materials and patterns. Mirroring, too. New buildings mirror the old ones opposite. Glass buildings are by turns reflective and see-through, giving glimpses of their surroundings and people inside. People look less solid than they really are. Every view incorporates old and new elements, encapsulating centuries of history within itself.
This is the least I can say: this is part of my reality. This scene from the el that’s kind of a black hole as far as meaning is concerned? This is part of my everyday. No doubt, little bits of this irreducible stuff are lodged within my personality, too. Despite advances in science, despite our religions, our lives remain full of primitive mystery.