Wednesday, August 09, 2006

`Loop-Holes of Retreat'

They might have been talking about blogging:

“What I mean by living to one’s-self is living in the world, as in it, not of it: it is as if no one knew there was such a person, and you wished no one to know it: it is to be a silent spectator of the mighty scene of things, not an object of attention or curiosity in it; to take a thoughtful, anxious interest in what is passing in the world, but not feel the slightest inclination to make or meddle with it. It is such a life as a pure spirit might be supposed to lead, and such an interest as it might take in the affairs of men: calm, contemplative, passive, distant, touched with pity for their sorrows, smiling at their follies without bitterness, sharing their affections, but not troubled by their passions, not seeking their notice, nor once dreamed of by them. He who lives wisely to himself and to his own heart looks at the busy world through the loop-holes of retreat, and does not want to mingle in the fray.”

This comes from “On Living to One’s-Self,” an essay William Hazlitt published in 1821. Hazlitt was never a “silent spectator,” but earlier in the essay he commends “never thinking at all about one’s-self, any more than if there was no such person in existence.” I favor writers who instinctively are most impersonal when writing about personal matters. One of the attractions of blogging is the qualified anonymity it permits. Words matter, not the precious “personality.” Except for the bit about “pure spirit” – no one I know – Hazlitt describes a writer’s ideal of spectatorship. Someone should start a blog called Loop-Holes of Retreat.

And this, from the English poet Roy Fisher, who told an interviewer, “I don’t mind being invisible if it gives me independence.”

What I treasure most is my independence. I have no one to please but myself, and I’m most myself when I’m invisible.

1 comment:

Maxine Clarke said...

Couldn't agree more with this lovely post, Patrick. (Am belatedly linking to it on Petrona.)

However, though I think I understand what you are saying about "personality", I would argue that the personality of a blog is also a significant part of one's enjoyment of it, as well as the actual words. I feel I have got to know many bloggers, initially by the "personality" of their perspective and attitudes. And some bloggers are more personality-oriented, eg Minx's -- she is a writer but most definitely a unique voice in her blog. I feel that all tbe blogs I visit regularly are like "friends" but they are all quite different in their "personalities".