Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Blogging: A Conversation with the World

One of the most surprising (to me) statistics from blogging is the number of readers in countries such as France, Germany, the Ukraine, Russia, China and even Poland. It reinforces my feeling that in blogging about genealogy (or any other subject for that matter) I am really having a personal conversation with the entire world. I guess it is hard to understand that I can carry on such a conversation sitting at a computer in Provo, Utah or Mesa, Arizona.

One of the strangest things about blogging, especially about a topic such as genealogy, is that I am always surrounded by people who, (A) have absolutely no interest in the subject of genealogy and (B) have never read a blog and in addition, have no idea what a blog is. The contrast between the semi-unreal online world and the real world surrounding me gets more pronounced every day. In addition, I can't even begin to speculate how what I say would even sound like in Russian or Polish.

Granted, genealogy is a universal subject and transcends any international or social boundaries. I have spoken Spanish nearly all my life and I cannot imagine translating some of things I say in my blog into Spanish. Even if I were to translate every word perfectly, the cultural and social context of my blog posts would be lost. So how do I explain the popularity of my blog in non-English speaking countries? All I can guess is that genealogy supersedes these limitations and addresses a basic human experience.

The one thing that I think is important about writing a blog, no matter the subject, is that you are totally and completely saturated and immersed in the topic. I eat, sleep and live genealogy, all day, every day. Contrary to the question I am most asked, I do sleep. But I often wake up with an entire blog post planned out in head. I do not either encourage or even suggest that anyone become so involved in a single topic, even if that topic is genealogy. But on the other hand, I certainly can understand how such a fixation is possible.

In analyzing the reason for my interest, I believe that it is based on the complexity and unpredictability of the subject. If genealogy were not so difficult, it would not hold my interest. Law, linguistics, history, weaving, photography, computers and many other subjects have caught my attention, but it only genealogy that has the characteristics that keep my mind fully occupied, day after day, week after week, year after year. If you think the practice of law is unpredictable, then you need try going to court day after day. But law is really a narrow subset of genealogy, as are all the other disciplines. In its broadest sense, genealogy includes practically every other study and learning. Genealogy deals with the entire spectrum of human experience put in the form of the most complicated detective story ever written.

Realizing this, it is not only possible but probable, that passionate writing about genealogy would have an attraction to all who realize the importance and central role of the subject, no matter their cultural or linguistic background. Of all the subjects I have embraced, photography comes the closest to having the attraction of genealogy. Both photography and genealogy are ways of dealing with the details and at the same time, the complexity of the world. Much of the time, I see the world as a discrete series of photographs.

I also find it interesting that both genealogy and photography will never lead to fame, fortune or even notoriety. They are narrow subjects and the only people who achieve a measure of fame are those who are involved in the business of both. I am long past the time of my life when I need to be involved in business. So, I write. I teach and sometimes, I take photographs. It reduces life to a pretty simple regimen. Oh, I almost forgot all the rest of my very complicated life for just a second. I guess I was writing in terms of the unreal world rather than the sometimes harsh reality.

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