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Portraits On Line

Posted on Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 08:00AM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , | Comments14 Comments

On the control panel at the left side of this web site, you’ll see a section titled “Resources”, and under that a clickable entry titled “kindred souls (links to other blogs)”.

I had the day off from work yesterday, and I spent much of it redoing that page — remaking it into the sort of blog directory that I always wanted to see on everybody else’s site, back when I first began looking at the blog world.

I looked again at each of my favorite bloggers’ and web-journallers’ sites, and wrote a little paragraph to characterize who they are and what they do as best I could. (All those paragraphs will be subject to future revision as I get to know these wonderful people better.) I added links to some of my favorite individual postings on many of the sites.

I also found photos of as many of the authors as I could — sometimes on their sites and sometimes elsewhere, sometimes very elsewhere — and I placed those photos next to their names.

The photos were particularly magical. Quakers don’t look quite like other sorts of people — at least, to my eyes. The genuineness of their smiles, the glows in their eyes, the comfort with which they wear their whole bodies, does something to me. As I added their photos to my humble directory, the whole page seemed to take on a bit of their collective genuineness and glow and comfort. And the bare list of links I’d started with that morning began turning into a portrait of a community.

You know, it’s surprisingly hard to get to know people on line. You can trade letters and comments with them for years, and still, important details of their lives won’t necessarily get mentioned. You may never learn what they do for a living, or how they feel about it, or what little off-work passions they have, or what they’re struggling with personally, unless they themselves choose to bring those things out. It’s very different in that way from a good physical neighborhood, where such things tend to come out in the wash whether the other person wants them known or not.

Closeness is especially hard on line. One can so easily mistake a person’s tone of voice, and be alienated by what was meant kindly — but one cannot be so easily surprised and won over by a loving tone of voice one wasn’t looking for. I think one has to live close to the charity in one’s own heart, in order to have any sort of community at all with others on line. And that’s not the fault of the other people; it’s just the weakness of the medium.

Nonetheless, as my descriptions of my favorite journals and blogs and their authors began coming together — and particularly as I found photos and added them in — I began to think, “I am beginning to know these people as people. I like them as people. If I walked into a meetinghouse and found all of them sitting on the benches, I’d feel right at home.”

It was a good feeling.

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Reader Comments (14)

I love your "kindred spirits" page, but confess a very human and unworthy feeling of - - what? - - jealousy toward those Friends listed on it.

There are all kinds of blog rolls I'm not on (and clubs I haven't joined), and this has never bothered me. It would almost seem absurd to feel bad about that. I'm not even sure I would include my own blog on a blog roll if I were someone else - - it hasn't been that active lately, after all.

But this isn't just a blog roll, it's a list of "kindred spirits", and as such it awakens in me a desire to be numbered among your kindred. I hope you will consider adding me and my "Brooklyn Quaker" and "Pondering the Gospels" blogs.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

Feb 7, 2007 at 12:38PM | Unregistered CommenterRich Accetta-Evans

Hi, Rich --

I'm adding your Brooklyn Quaker blog to the "kindred souls" page. I am not, at present, adding Pondering the Gospels. Why?

Let me talk about the principles on which this list of blogs is put together.

The page I set up is not intended as an inclusive list of all kindred souls with blogs, no matter what the nature of the blog. I follow three other criteria as well:

-- The first of these criteria is that readers of my journals, who visit these other sites, should be able to find material they might find of real interest or usefulness fairly quickly. This eliminates sites by people I feel close to, who are posting mainly personal trivia or unusually technical commentary. There are one or two sites on my list that are borderline by this first standard, and may eventually be dropped.

-- The second criterion is that I cannot recommend sites containing material that I see as contrary to the purposes of my own site. I am a Friend with a driving concern for the health of Quakerism and the fate of the natural world; my site is intended as a Friendly testimony and an earthwitness; and any blog sites I recommend need to be consistent both with my concern for the health of Quakerism and with my earthwitness. There are several sites on my list that I feel are borderline in regard to Friends principles, but that remain on the list because just being borderline is not necessarily enough to rule them out -- and anyway, they have clear balancing positive features. There are other sites that I have never put on my list to begin with because they seem to me to clearly fail one or the other half of this second criterion.

-- The final criterion is that the site should be adding good new material fairly frequently, showing that the author is a minister actively being spoken through -- so that readers have some incentive to keep coming back to it, and to engage the author in dialogue. In general (this is not a hard rule, but a soft rule-of-thumb), a site on my list without any good new posting in a four month stretch will be dropped from the list; and a site not yet on my list has to add at least two good new postings, new messages from the Spirit, in the space of not more than three months in order to be eligible. Several sites in the environmental section of my list are borderline or worse in this regard, and remain on the list only because so many of my readers have such a keen interest in environmental ministry.

So. Your Pondering the Gospels blog seems to me to fall short of my usefulness criterion. The sorts of things you're bringing out of the text are -- at least so far -- not closely related to issues of faith and practice that we Friends are grappling with; and unlike friendly skripture study the process does not emulate Friends' own bible study process. I am waiting (in a friendly and optimistic way) to see where this new blog of yours goes, before I recommend it.

Your Brooklyn Quaker blog has good material fairly accessible from the home page, and does not fail my second criterion. But I'm concerned that you're not adding good new material. Your "message from Rich Evans" was new to the blog but not new to the cosmos. Your message about prayer is the only other substantive item you've added since last July.

You know I'm a fan of your work, Rich. But it was the dearth of any new material that took Brooklyn Quaker off my list last November, and a relative dearth of good new material has kept it off my list since then. I'm not sure it even now passes my test for being added back on -- but your loving request overcomes my reluctance.

Feb 8, 2007 at 08:38AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Thanks, Marshall.

It's a good explanation - - and a good incentive get some new posts out there.

- - Rich

Feb 8, 2007 at 12:07PM | Unregistered CommenterRich Accetta-Evans

Marshall. WoW. I am humbled by including me on this blogroll in the way you have.

I also appreciate the tenderness with which you responded to Rich's vulnerable question. I sensed a real caring without sacrificing sincerity... Your own explanation of how you generated the blogroll also helped demystify for me why your blogroll is not as long as a (nearly) all-inclusive list.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Feb 9, 2007 at 07:34PM | Unregistered CommenterLiz Opp

What a wonderful resource! Adding the photos does wonders to create a personal connection. As I explore the world of Quakerism (I'm relatively new to the RSoF), I plan to return here again and again. Thank you.

One way that I've made connections to people via blogging is to set up face to face meetings whenever I can. I make it a point to connect to fellow bloggers at local religious and political events and when traveling to conferences. Then the blogs become one element among many to reinforce relationships.

Feb 9, 2007 at 11:40PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Remy

Two welcome comments from two of the best bloggers around --

Liz, your place of honor is something you've earned fair and square. If the Spirit should ever move you to supply me with a photo to add to that page, I'd be delighted; but if you have a reluctance to do that, I will respect it.

I don't know what good purpose would be served by my putting together an "all-inclusive" list. QuakerQuaker will always do a better job of that than I possibly could! I think the best purpose my own little directory can serve is just to say to newcomers, "If you liked this site, you might also like these others." And in that light, I think my little list is already somewhat longer than desirable -- I suspect most newcomers feel rather overwhelmed when they are given more than twelve or fifteen links to choose among. I'm trying to come up with a good way of dealing with that problem.

Dear readers, John Remy's blog mind on fire is a remarkable thing, richly alive with ideas and altogether fascinating. It touches on Quakerism, but only touches -- there's far more material there on the LDS and Mormonism than on the RSoF. But the sheer wealth of ideas will well repay an occasional visit --

Feb 10, 2007 at 07:20AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Hi Marshall, I like your list very much. It's nice to see such care and thought given to what should go on and it gives us all incentive. Last week I saw an earlier version of the list (pre-photos!) and had to admit that your description of QuakerRanter was pretty spot on. Being under-employed has acted as a bit of a stop for me, as did rising up a notch in the Quaker hierarchy eighteen months ago. I've been putting my most pondered thoughts in the comments of other people's blogs--hey, maybe I should just go through my last six months of comments and start posting them to the Ranter! Thanks again for all your work lifting up these ministers-being-spoken-through and kindred spirits. I added a link to this list from my QuakerQuaker list--the more of these the better.

Your Friend, Martin the sometimes Quaker Ranter

Feb 10, 2007 at 09:07AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Kelley

I am deeply touched that you included me on your list, Marshall. I look forward to your comments on my blog and truly appreciate them.

And if you want a picture of me... here's one: http://www.livejournal.com/userpic/51384658/929194

But I can email you a more serious one, if you want.

Feb 10, 2007 at 06:13PM | Unregistered CommenterTania Harrison

Hello, Martin! I'm glad you like this little step forward as much as I do. I think you have good instincts in these things.

I went and looked at your "Comments Blog" on your own site. It was a bit odd to see the comments first, before seeing the essay they were appended to. I personally didn't have too much trouble because, in most cases, I'd already seen the comments once or twice before, in their original context. But I wonder how this arrangement worked for readers who were encountering your comments for the first time.

I'm personally glad you are outside the Quaker hierarchy now. I see Christ drawing you to work on things like QuakerQuaker and QuakerRanter more and harder than he ever drew you to work on Web sites for big Quaker organizations. (Even now, when you're not visibly doing all that much on your sites, I see him drawing you that way.) And I think the fact that he's been drawing you that way deserves some respect. Of course, I know how much it hurts you to have lost that income! But from my point of view, you're in the grip of something bigger and more important.

Tania, there is no way I could have not included you on my list. I think that in the last month, your blog has been one of the most significant things happening in the Quaker corner of the Web. Friends deserve to know about it!

But I can't use that picture -- it's iconic, not a true photo. What I want is a picture of the person we'd see if we met you at a Quaker potluck: ideally, the simple, friendly, un-self-conscious you; and if I can't have that, then something close to that. That un-self-conscious person is one your readers would all like to meet!

Feb 11, 2007 at 02:15PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

How about this one? http://www.thefunnel.org/me.jpg That's actually the photo my Monthly Meeting uses of me in their directory. (It was taken by the Meeting's photographer at hospitality one morning.)

Feb 12, 2007 at 03:55PM | Unregistered CommenterTania Harrison


Feb 12, 2007 at 10:24PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey


Thank you very much for including me in your directory. Now I definitely have another incentive to keep my blog updated!

Feb 15, 2007 at 09:14PM | Unregistered CommenterMicah Bales

Hello Marshall:

I am glad to see our friendly skripture study has made your recommended list -- especially as I suspect we are wandering from the bounds of your "helpful" criteria of late.

The old kwakersaur (now extinct) made the Quaker blogrolls semi-regularly and one of the reasons I ended it was I found myself writing in hopes of being linked to -- a less than helpful thing in a minister I think. With the skripture study we write for one another and though I find it odd that Quaker-Quaker doesn't see us as within their mandate -- I am very glad we do write for one another and not the wider web.

And yes. I would very much like to meet in worship one of these days.

Feb 18, 2007 at 03:17PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid McKay

Dear Micah and David, it was very good to hear from you both! I feel rather flattered that you think my list of blogs matters that much. But if it brings you readers, I'm delighted.

Feb 21, 2007 at 06:34AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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