The better angels of our nature

March 03, 2004

I found myself thinking about why I read web logs, why I read fiction, and what things I find in common amid the various things that I read for fun.

What came to mind was this: I like to read things that celebrate or explain traits that I wish I had more of. For me, the traits that I respond to are being a doer not a slacker, being kind to others, having introspection and self-knowledge, and living a truthful life. These are the better angels of my nature, and I do what I can to encourage them in myself and, where possible, in others.

Perfection is boring. It is boring in fiction and, in real life, when I meet someone who seems too perfect I suspect a con game. Even Ben Franklin, who resolved at one point to become perfect, found that the best he could do was moderate those of his faults that he was aware of. In fiction, the perfect character is not inspirational and not all that interesting. The challenge for an author is to create an attractive character, someone who appeals to some of our better angels and is neither perfect nor despicable.

As bloggers, we create images of ourselves through our words, picking and choosing the stories to tell, the subjects to comment on, and the items to link. We also, through our selection of who we read and, even more, who we publicly admit to reading, display to other people what some of our aspirations are.

That is not to say that we want to be the people in our blogrolls, although it would be sort of fun to take Eugene Volokh's brain out for a spin some day, but rather that most of the people we read regularly have something appealing or attractive to them. And, most of the people that we read often but do not blogroll have something unattractive about them or something that appeals to the darker angels of our nature. I know I have many sites on my private blogroll that will never go to the list on the right simply because they are too negative, or they are slackers, or they put partisan concerns above a search for truth and understanding.

And so, while I sometimes silently add and drop people from the blogroll, sometimes we have to announce that we are dropping someone as a public protest against their words or as a statement that the balance of their public persona has shifted from, for example, being a good writer who has slacker tendencies to being a self-destructive slacker who used to write well but is now calling for help. I am self destructive and slack enough on my own - those traits do not need reinforcement. So, while I do hope that Rob gets his act together, it is time to edit the blogroll.

Posted by Red Ted at March 3, 2004 10:10 AM | TrackBack


Come take a look at the new site! One of the readers, Upper West, left a long, philosophical comment about blogs, relationships and the nature of the blogosphere which I found quite touching. It's on the Open House thread.

Posted by: Melanie at March 3, 2004 02:41 AM

I followed the links to the offending article, and, um, yeah. Get out of blast radius.

Posted by: DFH at March 3, 2004 06:01 AM
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