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A mystery lies at the very bottom

I, along with several other Review-Journal scriveners, recently joined the lowing herds browsing the ether — otherwise known as bloggers, those free-range creatures who mostly chew up the intellectual property of others and spit out their cuds online.

You can find our blogs at the newspaper’s Web site, reviewjournal.com, along with some actual news.

In an effort to find a rationale for this otherwise irrational omphaloskepsis — that’s Greek for navel gazing — I turned to an old friend and revisited his explanation for the phenomenon.

Thus, for all of you who write blogs, which seems like everyone, and for all of you who read blogs, which seems like no one, may I be so bold as to recommend an interesting little treatise by George Orwell called "Why I Write."

Orwell brings the essay with a brief history of his youthful experiments with writing and admitted plagiarisms. He was the middle child of three, but there was a five-year gap on either side.

"I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons," Orwell recalled, "and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life."

After his exploration of various forms, poetic and prose, including what he calls "the cheapest journalism," Orwell got down to the core of the matter that covers the rationale for most, if not all of us unrepentant scribblers.

First is sheer egoism.

"Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.," Orwell explains. "It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. … Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money."

I think that was both a salute and a sully to the profession of journalism.

The second rationale, according to Orwell, is aesthetic enthusiasm.

"Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. …" Orwell writes. "Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations."

Third is historical impulse.

"Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity."

Finally, and probably most importantly, political purpose.

"Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."

Orwell wrote this in 1946, after "Animal Farm," but two years before 1984. He said "Animal Farm" was his first conscious effort "to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole."

Orwell wrote against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.

Ayn Rand wrote for free-market capitalism.

Robert A. Heinlein wrote for libertarianism.

Others espouse various "isms" and objective journalism attempts to eschew them, not always successfully.

So, what moves you or me to write?

As our master Orwell said, "All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery."

Everybody loves to unravel a good mystery, right?

 

Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and writes about the role of the newspaper and the public’s right to access public records and meetings. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at tmitchell@reviewjournal. com. Read his blog at http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.

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