Not long ago, I mentioned offhandedly that I was interested in instituting guest posts on my blog. I didn’t think anyone would notice, honestly. (I figured I’d have to actively solicit contributions from friends, though I secretly hoped I’d get an immediate influx of smart people making proposals.) But my friend Hannah Hessel did notice, in fact. She asked me almost immediately to elaborate. What did I see, she asked, as my blog’s purpose? And I instantly knew that I wouldn’t be able to answer her very easily.
When I first started this blog, I was coming out of a bit of a hiatus: a period of a few years in which I hadn’t kept a blog of any kind. (I’d kept one for five years or so before then.) I set out in my first post to do nothing more than establish my personal brand in the social space. I wanted the world to know, better than it already did, who I am… and really, since writing is discovery, I probably (subconsciously) wanted to find out who I was, too. And it’s been terrific. I have learned a lot, and I think the world has, too. At least… I hope so.
But I’m getting bored. I feel like most of what I write here is just too tame. Reasoned arguments for things, self-promotion, blah, blah, blah. I just can’t be bothered to muster the energy (and the time out of my family/writing life) to keep going at the same pace. This being the new year, and me being all resolved-and-stuff to do a few things differently, I decided to just… slow down a bit and wait for inspiration. So that’s why you’ve seen me writing less frequently.
Look: life is short. I got me about, oh, 55 more years if I’m reading the genetic and future-of-medicine tea leaves correctly, or as few as 20 years if I’m not, or thirty-six minutes if a meteor I don’t know about happens to be on its way to my head. That ain’t much. And lately, I feel like I’ve been doing too much scattering seeds in the wind: throwing tiny ideas here and there in the hope that they find the right soil and water and sunshine to bloom. It’s not very satisfying. So instead I’m planning to start saving up those seeds, choosing the ones I really care about the most, then carefully planting and tending them until whatever they spawn seems to be strong enough to survive on its own.
Metaphor officially stretched too thin, I know. Bear with me?
So… what are the things I care about? What do I really want to be doing with this blog? What, to answer Hannah’s question, is the blog’s highest purpose?
For my answer to that question, I am taking inspiration from noted science writer and editor (and founder of Edge.org) John Brockman. Specifically, from one of the Edge.com books he edited: What Is Your Dangerous Idea? When I read that collection of essays a few years ago, I was floored by the intellectual derring-do: so many brilliant writers willing to consider, in public, ideas that would frustrate people, confound them, make them angry, break categories in their brains, confuse them, cause great consternation, inspire terrific arguments, and generally shake things up. (Note that I haven’t included “offend people” in the previous list; offense may have happened, but it wasn’t Brockman’s goal.) It was unforgettably inspiring.
It was also rather science-heavy, as Edge.com publications almost always are. (I’m looking forward to reading Culture, which I expect won’t be.) Which made me wonder: what would the same thing look like for the arts? What are the ideas that would have similar effects on arts practitioners? And what would a collection of those ideas happen to look like? How could I turn my blog into more of an ongoing agent-provocateur?
Some will say, of course, that I’ve done that already — and from time to time, I agree, I have. But what if that goal were the singular purpose of this blog? I will still need a place to share ongoing news about my productions, speaking engagements, etc., but those can be tagged and categorized as such. The main content can — and, I might as well just say it now, will — be focused on upsetting intellectual apple carts and imagining new modes and forms and possibilities and, well, trying to say that thing, whatever it might be, that maybe lots of people are already thinking but nobody’s willing to say.
Which brings me back to Hannah. (Thanks, Hannah, by the way, for bringing this to a head!) The thing is: it doesn’t really have to be just me doing this. It isn’t on the Edge.org — it’s a huge assortment of thinkers and writers and idea-people. Hell, I don’t even have that many dangerous ideas! Okay, maybe I do have a few, but… YOU, the people who read this blog, have many more than I do. Your collective dangerousness makes mine look puny. And few of you, I believe, have outlets in which to express your more radical notions. So… let me extend a hand.
If you want to help challenge, reinvigorate, question, re-imagine, or dare the status quo; if you have a genuinely dangerous idea (or even a sort of risky one), and you think you can write about it, email me. I’m open to anything theatrical or performative, but I’m particularly interested in ideas that are either national (or international) in scope and ideas that are DC-centric. I won’t accept every proposal that’s sent my way, but I won’t be censoring anything for being “too dangerous” or — and this is important — for whether I agree with it. I promise to copy edit as lightly as possible, and nothing will be published without your permission; you’ll also HAVE to agree to put your name to whatever you write: no anonymity here. (Conversations and comments, however, will be civil.) Sadly, I can’t pay you anything… but I promise not to make anything myself from anything you write, either. This blog ain’t for commerce, it’s for contemplation.
So… who’s going to be first?