Yesterday I got an email from a Church of the Churchless visitor who offered me some advice:
It seems to me like you spend more time writing on this blogging thing than is healthy for anybody to do….We all get disillusioned with something, but we can move on or we can waste our time bitching about our disillusionment in cyberspace all day.
Well, I beg to differ. I'm not in cyberspace all day.
Though when our well pump stopped working this afternoon, and I had to find a way to get it fixed at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, I sure wanted to escape into a more pleasant realm of reality.
Which for me, is writing – the essence of my blogging. It's therapeutic for me to sit down for an hour or two every day, write about whatever strikes my fancy, then publish it on one of my two blogs.
Science agrees that it's good for me. And other people too, naturally.
Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits.
Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.
I suspect that my correspondent felt better after writing me to say that I shouldn't spend so much time writing. He needed to bitch about how I bitch about my experiences with Radha Soami Satsang Beas, though in his message he also said:
A lot of the things you say about the path are valid, and many are similar to the reasons why I didn't follow in my parents spiritual footsteps.
If you want to read about someone really into sharing the details of their inner self online, check out Emily Gould's tale of blogging semi-addiction in the New York Times magazine.
Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life.
I was sort of similar. In my pre-teen years I founded a neighborhood "newspaper" via my mother's typewriter and carbon paper. It lasted a couple of single page issues, surely disappointing my handful of subscribers.
Like Emily, I've always had an urge to write down thoughts and, however I could, get them into other people's brains. Like she said, with the Internet it's just a lot easier now to do the mind-melding.
So I don't agree that sharing ideas already in my head deserves to be called "bitching." In my admittedly self-absorbed world view, it's "openness."
My notion of bitching is irritation feeding upon itself, the act of complaining serving as fertilizer that grows a larger crop of bitchum.
By contrast, almost always I feel calmer and more content after I write a blog post. Getting out what's inside lowers the level of my psyche's Lake Irritation (though I realize that often it raises other people's).
Here's another thing: today I mailed off the questionnaire Consumer Reports sends me every year. I dutifully reported on our experience with cars, restaurant chains, cameras, lawn mowers, and various home appliances.
I love Consumer Reports. I always have ten year's worth of issues stacked in a cabinet. Whenever we're considering buying something, I check to see what Consumer Reports says.
I also Google potential choices. I like to learn how other people feel about this or that. Likewise, Amazon reader reviews frequently sway my decision about whether to buy a book.
Why, if all this is so helpful, is it wrong for people to similarly share their experiences with buying into a religion, philosophy, meditation practice, or spiritual path? Sure, there's less objectivity here compared to, say, the performance of a vacuum cleaner.
But there's still a lot to like about someone sharing as honestly as possible how they feel about a "product" that supposedly brings one closer to God or Self.
Results may vary. Sure, that has to be remembered. Nonetheless, I'm interested in knowing what the results were. And in sharing my own, bitchily or otherwise.