Triggers, trips, and troglodytes: A paleo-psychology of blogging

A little less than a year ago, my first blog post went online[1]. Since then, I published 26 posts with an average of almost 200 views and around 120 visitors for each single piece, cheerled by one article with more than 1,200 views to date[2]. On the one hand, this puts my page nowhere in a global context[3]. On the other hand, it paradoxically also means that whatever I post on this blog is most likely read by more people than any of the books or articles I published in print in the past[4]. Neither observation worries me much. Neither observation excites me much. Both observations merrily confirm all biases I have about the lack of correlation between reach and relevance of anything that is (or ever was) being thought, said, or written.

So, yes, you’re hearing it right: I don’t primarily write because I want to be read[5]. And, just to make the point, I don’t write for money or business either. In fact, I sometimes wonder if what I write on my blog does my professional reputation any good at all[6]. Of course, at the same time, the plain fact that I post online makes it obvious that I don’t write only for myself. In fact, whenever I post something on this blog, it comes with a relationship with the world outside myself. However, more often than not, that relationship is not one of me being a “sender” and you out there being “receivers”, but rather the other way round: Something “out there” is a trigger that sends me on a trip. What emerges, then, is a troglodyte’s painting that might (or might not) be discovered by someone quite far away in time and space – and might (or might not) be deciphered of being of any significance to themselves.

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Cave Paintings in Indonesia from The New York Times [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]

What are the triggers? Where do the trips go? And what kind of cave paintings can be discovered by those who venture into the dark underbellies of  this particular (or, maybe, any?) blog? It’s not about hand prints, buffaloes, stickmen, or anthropomorphic idols. Rather, it is about a few basic features that move my (or, maybe, any?) mind into forms, feelings, perceptions, concepts, and self-examination. Here’s a short guide to how to interpret the drawings on the wall:

Impulse: Sometimes there’s an impulse, and then there’s a blog post. It could be someone’s tweet that ignites an idea and a flickering garland of thoughts[7]. It could be a flash of dew, a bee or two, a breeze, a caper in the trees, a sepal, petal, or a rose that would by any other name smell just as sweet. These posts are fun to write, because they are born from somebody else’s imagination, quite literally the sparks that lights the wicks of creativity[8]. They have the unbearable lightness of living a digital life, because, ultimately, they don’t belong to anyone in particular, but rather reflect our connected minds’ self-igniting qualities at their best.

Discipline: Some other times, all that matters is that it’s time for another post. Two weeks have passed, and view counts are decreasing, so the clock is ticking for a new story to come to life and beg for people’s attention[9]. The outside world looms as a merciless court, judging ahead of seeing the post, simply because it’s too late. So I write, unfailing, night and day, no matter what gods, kings, or fatherland say – I’m writing, I’m writing[10]. These posts have the naked soberness of concentration and getting things done, the practical mind’s triumph over itself, grimly overcoming its own whims, worries, and weaknesses.

Pleasure: Then, other times again, it’s pure indulging in the frothy foams of fantasy, fiction, fun facts, and figures. Something sacred, sublime, or simply silly seduces my mind, spinning into motion its merry-go-round of images, patterns, and notions[11]. A red, a green, a grey keep flying past, a little profile comes and is already gone, at times, a smile comes floating by, a blissful happy smile lightly expended[12]. Such posts are a little otherworldly, not necessarily crafted to be grasped by rational reading, rather to be savoured with leniency and with a puzzled gaze, perplexing dances in a dream-like state of mind.

Opinion: And sometimes, of course, something needs to be said. Urgently, with a pinch of indignation, and with a puff of arrogance. And, of course, whatever needs to be said has to be said by no-one but me, myself, my own thoughts, translated into my own words[13]. So the thinking head arises from its slumbers, shakes off the chains of wants and needs, and reason in revolt then thunders, casting away its superstitions, changing whatever traditions are in the way, facing the fights that have to be fought[14]. Such posts are energising to write, most likely to attract fervent followers or cranky criticism, depending on readers’ acceptance of crazy assumptions and logical arguments, the cuts and bleeds of razor-sharp rational minds.

Reflection: Finally, at times, there’s something to think about in manifold measures with no clear results, compelling conclusions, or actionable outcomes[15]. These are the times when new philosophies call all in doubt, all well-known elements are falling apart, the sun is lost, and so is the earth, and no-one’s cleverness can reasonably direct us where to look for it, all seems in pieces, all coherence gone[16]. This is when mind unravels all its transcendental strengths, not what it is, and not what it is not, absorbed in earnest playfulness and animated focus.

No matter what’s the trigger and the trip, what then remains are squiggly lines on polished surface, for others to enjoy as entertaining illustrations, senseless chatter, or profoundest insights – the troglodyte’s  delineations existing merely in the minds of those who contemplate them thoroughly and with attention.

Read on. Write on. Don’t worry.


[1] You can still read it here, in case you missed it or want to refresh your memory [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]. To be honest, this was actually not my first ever blog post, but the first one on bucketrides.org. In order to find out about other, earlier blog posts, you’ll have to sift through footnotes across this year’s posts. BACK TO TEXT

[2] I leave it to you to guess which post this is. Mathematcially, it’s easy to conclude that there’s at least one post that is practically not read by anyone. The total unpredictability of a post’s popularity is one of the experiences from writing a blog that doesn’t cease to leave me in awe of the power of causes and conditions. BACK TO TEXT

[3] Today’s Alexa Ranking puts the site in a global position of 13,101,419 [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]. BACK TO TEXT

[4] You can prove me wrong by letting me know the number of readers for my first-ever academic article “Der Platz des Rechtlichen Postulats in der Besitzlehre”, in: Reinhard Brandt/Werner Stark (ed.), Autographen, Dokumente und Berichte. Zu Edition, Amtsgeschäften und Werken Immanuel Kants (Kant-Forschungen 5, Hamburg 1994, pp. 109-120, my post-doctoral thesis “Reflexive Politik im Sozialen Raum. Politische Eliten in Genf zwischen 1760 und 1841” (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz, Abteilung für Universalgeschichte 200), Mainz 2003, or my more recent musings on “Präzision und Perspektivität – wie lässt sich die Energie der Veränderung produktiv nutzen und leiten”, in: Thomas Kästner, Henning Rentz (ed.), Handbuch Energiewende, Essen 2013, pp. 871-885. Good luck. BACK TO TEXT

[5] Which of course does not mean that I don’t like to be read. Of course, there’s a thrill in knowing that someone actually take a bite of what you’ve been cooking, and it can be fun (or frustration) to get their feedback on how they like it. At the same time, it’s sometimes quite reassuring to imagine that only a few trusted friends actually swallow that bite. BACK TO TEXT

[6] Here‘s a glimpse of what I do for a living [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]. BACK TO TEXT

[7] Like here (inspired by @Morbus_Laetitia) and here (inspired by @raue) [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]. BACK TO TEXT

[8] For a soundtrack see this [retrieved Dec 28th, 2015]. BACK TO TEXT

[9] I won’t bother you with explaining which posts fall into this category. It’ll be a fun exercise for you to make you own guess. BACK TO TEXT

[10] For some music to go with this, listen here [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015]. BACK TO TEXT

[11] A prime example of this type of post is here – still waiting for its sequel [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[12] A random piece of music that has nothing to do with what’s written above is here [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[13] For example on sustainability, diversity, or mindfulness [all retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[14] You can also listen here [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[15] Like here [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[16] For a positive spin on such dire circumstances, you can listen to this [retrieved Dec 29th, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

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