At first I told myself that I couldn't do this. Then I told myself that I didn't want to do this. Then, unaccountably, I sat down and did this.
WHY I KEEP A JOURNAL (For Judith)
The short answer, I guess, is megalocephalism. I am an inordinate and inveterate fathead, and I labor under the delusion that I have something of interest to say to the world. There have been times when I had second thoughts - as in this excerpt from March 21st (how distant that time seems now.) This excerpt also explains the impetus for setting out upon this extended, somewhat unnatural (for me) journey:
"I began this journal with the idea of committing a novel to print, but the novel was uncooperative. I have continued on mainly to provide a showcase for my little critters (Diatoms), of which I am perhaps overfond ... Unlike many J-landers, I have never before kept a diary or journal. I question the wisdom of continuing this effort ..."
For better or for worse, I got over it.
There are many reasons why I continue to journal, chief among them the fact that it is gratifying to discover new neighbors and friends online. In no other place (except for chat rooms, but that's a different story for another time) can you meet and converse with so many people from all over the country (and perhaps the world.) Journals are unique in that complete strangers offer to share their lives with whomever cares to stop by and stay awhile. Sharing and caring are hallmarks of the journal experience.
Journals offer the best (and, sadly, sometimes the worst) of what everyday people experience. Many journals are chronicles of the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. People are willing to share their stories of tragedies and triumph, hoping in return to receive empathy, sympathy, validation, solace, or understanding. People want to know that they are not alone in having to suffer the tribulations of existence. Journals offer the opportunity to become a member of a vast and exquisite support group.
The explorer in J-land can discover a wide variety of topics. Every aspect of the human condition can be found, if one is patient and devotes the time to seek them out. Political and religious views are aired, details of unfamiliar illnesses are revealed, humor and whimsy are rampant, and flashes of both brilliance and darkness can sometimes be discerned, all proffered by people who feel no impulse to be celebrities, but wish only to say, "I exist. Here I am."
("See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.")
Many journals become outlets for people who exercise their creative impulses, and one can discover wondrous examples of artwork, photographs, poetry and prose galore. A few journals even become multimedia presentations, if the individuals are knowledgeable and talented enough to manage such. The only price of admission to this astounding world of creativity is an online connection.
In short, the world is literally at our fingertips.
In a way, we J-landers are making history. Historians of the future will discover in the archives that we create a vast wealth of material with which to interpret how we lived, how it was for us. This may be our best shot at immortality.
We who journal are privileged to meet people from all over the country and the world, from all walks of life. We become inhabitants of an enormous community that seems sometimes to shrink to the size of a village, and frequently we are welcomed as members of an extended and possibly surrogate family. I believe that we all share in common the thirst for the intimate connections that can be obtained only in this fashion. To touch and to be touched by the emotions and aspirations of others - ultimately, perhaps, this is why I keep a journal.