The First Blog
Long weekends are boring. Imagine long years of boredom.
I wouldn’t begrudge Ninoy Aquino the benefit of a holiday, and I happen to agree with This Government’s idea of “holiday economics” (yes, that’s the sound of the seven seals). The long weekend – with one coming up next week – has turned me into a bored man on edge.
Centuries ago, though, a bored man turned to ink, paper, and a whole lot of free time, and wrote something forever immortalized in history as one of the best books ever written. So good, you probably never heard of it.
The Japanese monk Kenko spent his bored days in the monastery writing essays, and compiled them into the Tsurezuregusa, or the Essays in Idleness. I like to think of it as the first blog ever made. The story has it that when he was not meditating, Kenko spent a lot of time hunched over his parchment pieces and his inkwell, and wrote down his thoughts on whatever came to mind. The end result was 243 essays on his reflections and meditations on random themes about life, nature, and general mindfuckery.
Of course, this was the year 13-something-something.
I first read the Tsurezuregusa when I was in college. It was a thin, hardbound volume bound in green cloth; like many of the books I’ve read, nobody really bothered reading the book since 1974. What made the Tsurezuregusa such a joy to read was that it was simple, smooth, and no matter how complicated or profound the topic was, Kenko always managed to make them relate to himself.
The Tsurezuregusa was a monologue, a deep introspection. It was blogging before SEO, blogging engines, blog events, and the rivalries and squabbles that we bloggers and readers of blogs find ourselves mired in every now and then. It was the first exercise in “the magnificence of Me.”
We all have our inspirations for writing; “context-builders,” our little perches in the shoulders of Giants. What we read will reflect in what we write. While I’ve always wanted to come close to the perfection of someone like Jessica Zafra (I’m a big admirer + fanboy of the Twisted series and The Emotional Weather Report), the Tzurezuregusa has always been my model for what makes good writing and, in effect, good blogging.
We all have different reasons why we blog. Some do it for the extra income, some do it for the sake of being popular, some of us do it for catharsis. For me, blogging is no different from writing; it is an artful form of turning the abstract into the concrete, and simplifying them into things that people understand, value, and remember.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m far from being the “Philippine version” of Kenko, and I don’t think writing 2,000+ blog entries over the years will have a spot in the light (or shadow) cast by Kenko in the realm of stream-of-thought writing. Until then, I guess I’m going to have to make my own name, write in my own style, and just do what I do best.
Here are some interesting selections from Kenko. As I always suggest to people looking for “writing tips” that I cannot give, it’s simple: read, copy, revise, read again, copy, revise, throw everything away, and make your own.