I received this comment today from a faithful reader:
"In my opinion your best writing/thinking/expressing/intellectualizing (double redundencies in the preceding) are missed when you overwrite about food/cooking.
e. g. C.K. Fisher was extraordinary. I had dinner with her two times but that was enough.
Literature, children, law give a Miramax perspective to how life is looked at. And at the moment there are so many more important issues to be addressed. The sanctity of marriage. Flags being burned. Where is Berkeley when we need her? In Sweden this passes for humor."
Here's my response:
My dear reader,
I understand your desire for more posts that take on directly the urgent issues of the day. I am sorry if you are disappointed that I have chosen to write differently about the things you mention.
There is already a considerable amount of chatter and ranting out there on the questions that polarize us. Writing of this sort reaches primarily one audience: those who agree with you already. This sort of writing does not change anyone's mind or encourage us to listen to each other, and it can enrage and insult those who hold different beliefs. It might reach a large audience, of course, but it is not my goal to reach a large audience by preaching to the choir. If one wishes to change hearts and minds about the difficult issues you mention, then a different discourse is called for than the sort of liberal and conservative political blog commentary I'm sure you're familiar with.
At the heart of many of our problems on this planet is our difficulty really seeing how much we are alike. The internet is a wonderful place to discover our common ground. This thing we're on, after all, is a web. I want to spin a gracious little piece of it that joins us lightly to one another and helps us see how much we share. That is why I have chosen the tone and topics I have. What we share, even when we are utterly polarized on the issues of the day are things like what we eat at our tables, how we raise our children, what we love to read, the importance of friendship, gardening, the gifts we give to our loved ones, our relationship with the past — the things you refer to as "miramax" and the things I think of as the elements of a good and decent life, the desire for which we all share.
By the time the sun sets today, this site will have led a few people to discover the work of Waking Up Twice, a fine Indian photographer featured on a weekly article I write called Saturday Morning Blogroll. They will link to his blog initially to see his photos or to get technical information because they too take pictures. Along the way, they might also see some negative idea they've held about India and its citizens contradicted or they might just think twice the next time they think about India, because they know the man who made these photos. When that happens, the web is working at its best.
It's difficult to hurt someone or believe something hateful about someone who shares a common interest with you and whom you think of as a friend. It is far easier to pass legislation or advocate ideas that hurt people we do not know or understand, people we've never listened to.
Here's another example of how this works: A lesbian knitter can connect with a straight, conservative woman on the web over a knitting blog. And because the two women are alike in one way, they will begin to see that they are alike in other ways as well. Perhaps the straight conservative knitter will understand that her fellow knitter shares with her a desire for love and security that should be honored and not forbidden. Perhaps the lesbian knitter will understand and grow to value the straight knitter's devotion to her religion and family.
Tone is the other thing that matters in encouraging people to find what they have in common. When I say I come to praise and not to bury, I am quite serious. I would like to model, cultivate, and participate in a discourse that is kind, generous and civil. If those qualities were the coin of the realm, we would not be in Iraq, we would not be trying to prevent people from loving each other, and we would be rebuilding New Orleans a lot more quickly than we are right now.
We encourage those things when we listen to each other without preaching or judgment, when we praise each other without envy, when we give to each other despite our own feeling of not having enough and when we discuss with pleasure those things we have in common.
I want to break bread with people who do not think like me or look like me or speak the same language I do. And to do that, a different sort of speech is required. And that is the sort of speech you will be hearing on this blog.
I hope you continue to visit often, and to leave your provocative and thoughtful comments. I value what you have to say and am always happy to see that you've stopped by.