Thinking about privacy,…

Thinking about privacy, after reading Patrick's and Columbine's almost diametrically opposed journal entries. I certainly lean more towards Patrick's almost exhibitionistic attitude -- I put tons of myself out there into the world. And yet -- it's not that I particularly want to be watched. It's that if you're going to be watching anyway, I want you to be able to do it properly.

There's this idea that I picked up from a class on teaching -- that one way to teach is to try to be 'transparent' about it. What does that mean? It means that when you give an assignment, you explain to the class why you're giving it to them, what you're hoping to accomplish with it. No mystery. No tricks. You lose some stuff with that -- tricks can actually be very effective in teaching. But you gain a lot too -- students who can analyze the process, can point out your own mistakes, can help you improve on it, and who learn to trust you.

If you teach transparently, you have to trust your students -- trust them to be intelligent, to be reasonably mature, to not lose confidence in you just because you've revealed some of your own confusions/insecurities/potential flaws. Even if your assignment turns out not to work so great, they know what you were aiming for, and sometimes, they can even give you that, despite the muddled assignment.

A lot of old-school teachers would hate teaching that way. It's uncomfortable revealing your process -- it makes it easy for students to poke holes in it. If you're at all insecure about your teaching, it's even more difficult (and I certainly do get insecure about it). And as I said, you do lose some effectiveness -- if the students revere you as a mysterious god, they may well follow wherever you lead, and you can get a lot of work out of them that way. But I prefer to teach transparently -- I think the benefits of their critical viewpoints far outweigh what you may lose.

That idea, of teaching transparently, crystallized something about the way I want to live. At least some of the time, I want to live transparently. I want everyone I interact with to understand what I'm trying to do, who I am, with faults and flaws and muddled thoughts. I want them to not just judge me based on the polished product, but on all the steps leading up to it. I want them to have as complete an understanding as possible of the whole, because it frustrates the hell out of me when people judge me based on a fragmented and incomplete understanding of who I am and what I'm trying to do.

So if you read this journal, read my other pages, read my stories and *still* think that I'm a shmuck, misguided, deluded or pure evil -- then fine. By your standards, in your world, I probably actually am. But if you read one story and decide that, then you're working with sadly incomplete data -- and if I don't give you access to more data, then how can you make a fair estimation?

It's not that I think readers have any particular right to this kind of information about the author -- it's Pynchon's utter right to reserve himself entirely to himself. But readers will speculate, and wonder, and want to know. I take it as a compliment, myself, when a reader enjoys my work enough to wonder about the person who created it. And while it's true that sometimes learning about me will lead them to wrongly interpret the stories -- at the same time, learning about me might help them to better understand the stories. (That's a whole literary theory right there, but we can save that for another day). Or even if it doesn't affect a reading of an individual story, it will almost certainly help them understand my work as a whole.

It's funny -- Kevin would NEVER do this kind of thing. His web page has some info for his classes and I think that's about it right now. But he honestly doesn't care what the world thinks of him, and I'm afraid I do. I could pretend I don't, but that wouldn't do much good, would it? I care. I know people are going to judge me and my work no matter what, and so I want them to have access to the knowledge to judge it fairly. So I put it up here.

And no, I don't spill everything. I don't care about the world's judgement on everything. So I don't talk in detail about my family, or about my love life, or about my sex life. There are clearly areas in my life where I value privacy over living transparently, at least for right now. I can imagine a time, decades from now, when I write an autobiography, and if I do, then I think I will try to be as transparent and honest as I can (without violating the privacy rights of others). But for now, I won't write about that sort of thing unless there's a need.

Note: In "Silence and the Word", a nonfiction essay, I did write about my own sex life, because that was the most effective way I could find to get my point across. So nothing is really off-limits -- I just have to have a good reason to expose the most tender parts of myself.

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