Friday, April 23, 2010

Mystery and Morality

It used to be that mystery and intrigue were something to be regarded as fashionable. The discussion of emotions, and feelings were something that made people uncomfortable, and were thought of as a weakness. Everyone had the same struggles, and talking about it, was viewed as complaining. No one liked a constant complainer. Have we improved as a society, by exposing our lives as an open book for anyone to read or watch? Does the old adage of "suck it up" have any validity?

As people and times have changed, so has the concept of mystery. Everything is reality. No longer do people want to remain a part of the safe interior, they want to be the stand out; they want their 15 minutes of fame. They will let go of intrigue, they will let go of mystery, and expose it for the thrill of attention. Intellect has died and the imbecilic attitude is the prevailing breeze. No longer do people enjoy reading and quiet contemplation, they want instant gratification and acceptance. Certainly, the winds will change, the winds always do; but what should we make of this new found "look at me" attitude? Is there any redemption to be found in facebooking and twittering our inner most desires, and private observances? Are we any happier after exposing ourselves?

I would argue that we have fallen into a deep pit, and people's voracious appetite for attention and exposure will lead to numbness. If there is acceptance of every desire and emotion, morality could be lost. Does mystery and intrigue compliment morality, or is blatant honesty and unfiltered rhetoric the new morality? At some point, will we, as a society, realize we have gone too far in our discussion of philosophy, and desire to return to simplicity and modesty?

I have been pondering this topic, as I explore the world of blogging. There was a recent article, in the local paper, about whether or not parenting blogs have made it easier for parents, or more stressful. The article supported the networking of people with common circumstances, as a social support group. But, I have had the distinct feeling, that it is the quiet, and underlying need for acceptance, that drives many people to expose their thoughts, and lives. Of course, acceptance is something people strive for, but the constant and immediate need for acceptance can become an obsession. An unhealthy obsession that could lead to regret.

The thoughts of the moment, are sometimes better left unsaid. If people change and evolve in their thoughts, then the permanent record of our past statements will always remind us of who we once were. What if that person has changed, will the accumulation of tweets and facebooking make this evolution impossible? I think so. I think it will make us wonder, "what we were thinking", and wish we could erase some of our remarks. It will be impossible to erase; it will be a permanent record for all to read and see. When I watch reality TV, I think: "thank god my adolescence was not documented", that person will regret this exposure someday. When I read a parenting blog, and the writer expresses a negative feeling for their child, or questioning their parenting skills, I think: "I hope their kids don't read that later on, they will think their parents hated them".

I wonder if the veterans of the World Wars and Vietnam and Korea would have been better off by having a sounding board for their experiences. I suppose this will be a topic of great discussion for the present day soldiers. What will the outcome of their open discussion have on their psyche in the the future? At some point, I have to believe, there is validity to "sucking it up", and keeping our emotions off the record. Leave the past, in the past, and live in the moment of now. Quiet reflection is a powerful healer. It is a difficult practice, to quietly reflect upon our lives; but, it does have the benefit of remaining private. In that privacy, there is no requirement for acceptance of others, but simply an acceptance of ourselves.

What is your opinion: should some things remain a mystery?


  1. Weird - I happen to be on posting, replying, etc. too - and.... did just get some very helpful comments on my blog regarding "free range parenting" so your post is VERY relevant to my "ponderings" (for lack of a much better word) right now. For me, I like the odd mix of anonymity and closeness that the blogging community provides. I love sharing with other mothers (because I had my little ones sooo close together, I was "alone" for a long time.... still get frustrated by little adult interaction and input). That said (the love it part), I did get very upset - not angry but sad and disheartened - when a member of this earthy, lovey, crunchy (yeah, right) mother's group I recently quit left a nasty comment on my blog for no reason - followed by a "friend" of mine sort of seconding her sentiments and, then... upon further investigation, I discovered this had happened before with the same people, so... I think if you're blogging with sincerity - like we all are here - and most people are - expressing interests / opinions close to their hearts, etc., it's all good - the hard answers to the hard questions - the sharing of tantrums (I do post on my challenges - and, often, hear from mothers how they appreciate my honesty - and I kinda want my kids to see it all someday - while I didn't keep a pregnancy journal because I am notoriously cranky while pregnant, I do think the good and bad of our daily lives will be of interest to them someday - my one son is, apparently, like me as a kid - challenging - and the verbal stories relayed about me made me feel bad - though, in writing, in my baby book, I gain a little better understanding, "hearing" my Mom's voice as she was going through it - and I'm not hurt anymore :-). I think those inclined to judge or say hurtful things have no business replying to blogs or expressing their "hate" in other forums (in person - whatever) anyway. I like how you're thinking about he permanence of our remarks, which... if you think about it, means that maybe as we post, vent, etc., we should THINK before we do so - vent but provide a gentle understanding of the other side or offer or ask for a solution. Productive, I think. Anyway.... well-said, Joely! Said it before - but love your blog.

  2. My mom always said that once it is out there (she meant in writing, not really thinking about the internet), it will or at least can always be there.

    I blog from the heart; I am a very open and honest person so I cannot imagine pretending to be something else or keeping my opinions to myself. But when I have "serious" issues, particularly ones that involve family and friends, I tend to keep those off my blog. As much as I would really appreciate others' perspectives on those issues, I just don't want to get super personal or offend someone I care about.

  3. Hi Joely - This is such an interesting and resonant post. I think I'm with @Facie on this one: the line I draw is that between personal and vulnerable. There are certain personal topics related to my family and friends that I would never discuss on my blog. I am willing to go into the vulnerable stuff, though (and by vulnerable I mean the existential crises I experience that I feel I can share without hurting anyone else). I think often about whether I might regret airing some of that vulnerable stuff. So far I haven't, but I'm only six months into this journey - and reminders like yours help keep me on course with the policies I set for myself at the outset.

  4. Sherri,
    I am glad you understood what I am saying. I do think we need to think before we vent in writing, but I am also saying , Is it helping us get through our day any better or just adding another complication? Do we now just live in the past too much. I am all for talking out an issue but no need to beat a dead horse. If everything we complain about eventually gets accepted as main stream then where has the morality gone? I think the need for acceptance is causing a problem. Everyone wants to be normal. An example, I mean women in the early 20th century never talked about pregnancy, it was a condition. Were they any worse off for not obsessing about every little thing. Is it possible to overtalk a subject until it becomes detrimental? I think it is.

  5. Facie,
    It is interesting that we are anonymous but still feel the need to cover up the serious stuff. Is it because we dont want to hurt anyone or we dont want to admit feeling a certain way? I am with you, it is dangerous to put in writing what you cant take back. But, I do feel like the best writers, ie Tolstoy, had such brutal honesty in their writing that they their stories have trancended time. I guess it all comes down as to how you want to be remembered.

  6. Kristen,

    I think it is interesting that you separate personal and vulnerable. I would think the vulnerable stuff would be harder to write about than the personal. I agree it is a hard line to draw. I want to be relevant. The most relevant bloggers and writers I know are the ones who are honest and controversial. They offend sometimes. This is a new thing for me, so I have been thinking about it. It is interesting to me to hear why others write and how they pick their topics. Thanks for the reply.

  7. Second that, Joely - that it is definitely possible to overtalk something until it is detrimental - definitely agree with that. In fact, I am a big fan of saying it - or not - then moving on - getting on with the productive end of things - the doing. Totally agree.

  8. Hi Joely,
    This is an extremely thought provoking post. And it stopped me a little in my tracks. As I'm sure you're aware, I write about anything and everything that is close to my heart. I do NOT write for attention or for people to notice me or "look" at me. I write about all of this because often I like to feel a PART of a greater "place". I have not been able to find friends who I can confide in with all of this "stuff" that floats around in my head but I like to feel affirmed in my thoughts or be told I'm being ridiculous so that I can move on. I often look for others experiences to guide me and help me in this crazy parenting world. I never really thought about what my kids would think if they were to find this blog and read it when they are older. But I would hope, they'd think, "Wow, my mom was real. She was honest and open and that parenting gig must have been hard." I never want my kids to be wary of expressing themselves, whether to me or to anyone else and if they read my blog, they will know I am not... I'd be thrilled if they followed my example in speaking from the heart.
    I am confident I won't regret anything that I've ever written. I have been ME. 100% ME 100% of the time. And I am, and will always be ok with that.

    Thank you for this post. And I'm glad I now see you have a blog! I had no idea!

  9. Becca,
    Thank you for reading my post and stopping by! I have always enjoy your blog. I understand completely what it is you are saying; but, what I am saying is: if there is this constant flow of our own personal information out there, and everytime something happens you can get an instant response; what has that done for personal reflection? Is it lost, or maybe it is not lost, but enhanced through writing. I am not sure I have any answer, it is just something I think about. Is our twitter and facebooking a form of self reflection, like our ancestors used prayer? It has many similarities but it is the "look over here" part that has me wondering what good it is doing us. I admit to enjoying the comments and seeing to whom stopped by, i like the acceptance. I agree with everything you said; but there is a point in which the mystery and privacy are foregone along with morality just for a bit of attention. What are you willing to draw the line at? Everyone has a point in which they cross the moral line, and I am wondering what that point is. My favorite fiction are those in which the writer is not afraid or reserved in their description. I said above that to remain relevant you have to be controversial so I am trying to figure out in my own personal blogging how far to go.

  10. Hi Joely,
    What an interesting discussion! Studying history in college I'm sure my professors would have drooled over primary documents from soldiers from any war documenting what their thoughts were and the human side of history.

    When I think about questions like these I remember when I had my first miscarriage as a newlywed. I was utterly alone and there was no information or community anywhere in 1993. Now I have a world of moms (like-minded moms!) out there. My kids know what I discuss and I know what's not privy to public scrutiny.

  11. Linda,

    How do you know where to stop? Like those soldiers, would they have written their honest thoughts or just rehashed what what is already documented? The best information personal accounts of the wars came much later, after time had settled in. Would you have really written about your miscarraige in 1993 or would you have held in until much later, when time had passed and you wanted to discuss it after it settled in more? Like now. I think people tend to hold on to serious thoughts for a long time before they can write about them. As if the time will move it far enough in the past and the reviews will not feel as personal. Atleast that is what I was used to in books, in blogs it is all very present day and I wonder, without that time distance to filter the thoughts will there more regrets for not having that mystery a bit longer.

  12. Sorry to put a non sequitur on here but I couldn't find another way to respond to your comment on my blog and I have to know: who is your brother in law?! Either way, I am quite pleased to have come recommended, and I am very glad you like my writing.

    I am impressed by the number of comments you get on your posts, too. I can never seem to generate that much interaction from readers. Way to go!

  13. It's interesting to me the way you're using "mystery" here. Emotions of the moment are not to be completely relied upon. I think this is acurate. If I were to make every decision soley based on my emotions I would be contradicting myself every other day.

    There certainly are abundant show and tell these days, and I agree that it is in order for us to gain acceptance. One of my favorite quotes is "I am determined to be misunderstood."

    A fair majority of my mistakes in life have come from over-clarifying myself; from failing to allow the mystery of who I am to linger... and trust that, in time, people who care will find me out.

    The most interesting people in my life are full of contradictions. Full of mystery. I enjoy it when a person dawns on me slowly. But it is a difficult thing to allow myself permission to do.

    This post gives me courage.

  14. Rebecca,
    You understand exactly what I mean. I miss how a person can dawn on you slowly. I love mystery. I think how you said, "from failing to allow the mystery of who I am to linger" ; that is what I am writing about. All of which are the precious parts of getting to know someone, the guessing. The thought that is behind every action is so overexplained at times, I long for that intrigue.