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1 Feb

My outward face – So I wasn’t quite able to keep up the entry-a-week pace, but I do have a little bit of an excuse, what with the pesky lunar new year getting in the way. Now that all that is over, though, it’s time to get back to writing here, and hopefully moving forward on some other content as well.

“We all have filters. We all have a threshold for how much of ourselves we are going to let slip through those filters and reach the rest of the world.”

In my last entry, I wrote about two meetings with people I had previously known only in cyberspace. In his own post on our meeting, Kevin mentioned that he was expecting to meet a “somewhat shy and quiet” person, but upon actually meeting me, he concluded: “Wrong. The man is a nut.”

That definitely got a smile out of me, but I was not at all surprised to hear it. Anyone who knows me well and who also reads Liminality will tell you that this website does not offer a complete picture of its author. It’s not that I deliberately try to portray myself as something that I am not, but I am very selective about what I do allow to get through my filters. This may not be the most interesting of topics, but I thought I’d take some time today to discuss my attitude toward Liminality and my thoughts on (for lack of a better term, though it pains me to say it) blogs in general.

You’ll notice that I still refuse to call Liminality a blog and use the term here only with caveats and gnashing of teeth. The fact is, though, that the term has gained such widespread currency that trying to stem the tide would be like standing on a beach before on oncoming tsunami and trying to hold back the wave with an umbrella. I’ve discussed the term at length in the past, but in short I rejected it because of what I felt it implied about the quality of the content (not to mention the linguistic absurdity of the word). Anyway, I said all that to say this: though you will never hear me refer to Liminality specifically as a blog, I will be using the term with nauseating frequency in the ensuing discussion, and I will not be apologizing for it (though I may wince every time I type it).

As I discussed in my very first entry, I began Liminality because I wanted to start writing again. I did plenty of writing academically, but I wanted to just write without any constraints. My second entry was my first directly political entry, and it also ended up being my last. My early entries were basically an attempt to figure out what I was going to do with Liminality, at least with the journal section, and my seventh entry talked about finding a groove with the journal. Yet it talked more about when I would write than what I would write. I don’t think I ever came to any official conclusions as to the content of Liminality, but as time went by I got a better idea of what I would and would not write.

For one, I quickly came to the conclusion that Liminality was not going to be a political site. Not only am I not that interested in politics, I will also readily admit that I’m not the most informed or educated person when it comes to that field. Nothing irks me more than people going off on subjects with which they are unfamiliar, and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake myself.

I do remember, at one point, formulating a sort of guideline for my writing here: when talking about myself, I would be brutally honest, but when talking about others, I would try to be more tactful. An early entry railed against racism (among other things) in Korea, and “Walking the fine line” and “The fine line revisited” were sparked by an incident reported by a Koreablogger about which I felt very strongly. I tried to be as tactful as possible, but there’s no doubt that these entries were on the combative side (not incidentally, they also generated the most comments). Later I would move away from this type of entry and focus more on introspection or less controversial topics.

Recently I have dealt more with less controversial Korean issues (such as the concept of ajumma), translation, writing, or my studies. I’ve also discussed films, television, and bread, though, so pretty much anything goes. Occasionally, something will get me worked up enough to be a little more combative than usual, but for the most part I avoid those types of entries.

Over the years (yeah, I can’t believe it’s been years either), though, I have come to an understanding about Liminality. It’s an understanding that every blogger must come to, one way or another: is this going to be a private site or a public site? By that, of course, I mean not who will have access to it, but what you will choose to show your audience. One of the appealing characteristics of blogs, I think, is the illusion that they allow an unadulterated glimpse into the mind of the author. It’s like reading someone’s private journal.

But, of course, it isn’t. At least, not when it’s interesting. Those blogs that really are unadulterated glimpses into the mind of the author aren’t (at least in my experience) the most interesting. We all have filters. We all have a threshold for how much of ourselves we are going to let slip through those filters and reach the rest of the world. To put it bluntly, the threshold here at Liminality is quite high. There are a lot of things that I will discuss with friends and family but will not write about here. For example, with the exception of that early, ill-advised foray into political ranting, I have not commented directly on Korean politics, and I most likely never will again.

I do not let my hair down hair. I do not let it all hang loose. That is the beauty of writing: unlike the spoken word, which often slips out before we are aware of it, causing us no end of regret, the written word can be careful and deliberate. I can craft and cull my words to make sure they cause as little offense as possible, and I usually do. The question I ask myself when I sit down to write an entry (or comment on another blog or message board) is not “do I want to write this?” it is “do I need to write this?” Most of the time, the answer is no. And if I don’t need to write something, and I determine that it would probably do more harm than good, I (usually) don’t write it. There are occasions when I feel something absolutely must be said, but these are rare.

I am sure there are some people who are recoiling right now as they read this. How could I stifle myself so? Well, this is where we come to the crux of my philosophy for Liminality: this site is not a place for me to vent, it is a place for me to practice organizing my thoughts into coherent treatments of certain issues. I will be honest (and this is where I may rub much of the blogosphere the wrong way): I have never really understood people who see their blog as a place to just vent all of their frustrations and anger. Back in the days before the internet, people so inclined exorcised their innermost demons in private journals and diaries. In my mind, at least, blogs are not the digital equivalent of these private records. The digital equivalent would be to write a private journal in a word processor and not show anyone. I have a difficult time understanding people who put everything, unfiltered, onto the internet for the entire world to see.

To give a concrete example, I was the municipal liaison for Korea during last year’s NaNoWriMo. In addition to staying on top of our regional forum, I also checked out the forums open only MLs. There were a number of threads where MLs talked about friction in their groups and asked for advice, and a number of times I read about how MLs had found information pertaining to the group (or even to themselves) on a member’s blog. Some of these MLs were hesitant to act on information they gained from these blogs, as they saw it as a sort of invasion of privacy.

I never said anything at the time, but I thought the idea was absurd. These people had posted this information for the whole word to see, and we were worrying about invading their privacy. I was just surprised to see that there were still people out there who equated blogs with private journals. One would have thought the number of highly publicized (at least in the blogosphere) blog-related firings would have tipped people off.

Now, if you’re willing to accept the consequences of putting yourself out there on the internet, live and uncensored, more power to you. Me, I’m not prepared to do that. So what you get here at Liminality is me, but it’s not the full me. I do not deliberately attempt to create a persona or image, but my filtering and censoring ultimately has that effect. I guess one aspect of that persona is “somewhat shy and quiet.” Those wouldn’t have been the first aspects I would have named, but I can definitely see them. Personally, I would have thought that “somewhat bombastic and elitist” would have topped the list.

When Kevin and I met for dinner and tea afterward, we discussed a number of things, including one unpleasant incident involving a certain government agency (and that’s the most you’ll get out of me on this). I had no problem talking with him about this in person because I knew he would keep the discussion confidential. But there is no way on God’s good earth I am going to mention even the vaguest details here. It would do me no good and possibly cause a world of trouble down the road.

So I do vent. I vent to my wife. I vent to my friends in private emails. I even vent to my parents-in-law (a very calm venting, of course). But I do not vent here. Then again, anyone who has read Liminality for any length of time will already know this. I suppose I just wanted to get this in writing so I could work things out as I wrote about it, if only for my own sake.

So, there you have it. Nearly three years in and over a hundred entries written, and I’ve finally gotten around to discussing this aspect of Liminality. This viewpoint is definitely not for everyone, as most bloggers I know have a far lower blogging threshold than I do. I can’t image that I will be disappointing anyone with this, since you probably won’t be reading Liminality for long if you don’t like my style. But occasionally these musings (to borrow a phrase from a friend) prove interesting to others, so here it is.

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