On the Anonymity of Expression

Today, I found this marvelous little snippet on my friend J.’s blog:

[W]hat do I want to say to the world? What voice do I use to speak? Who is the world to me, for that matter? I’m aware that this blog is just another ambitious little mushroom pushing up and into place, one of millions in the blogosphere (“So many of us! So many of us!” as the Sylvia Plath poem goes). But, well. Whether or not someone will listen, I’m the one writing. And in the end, the one reading, too.

This isn’t the first time J.’s said something I’ve always felt (or used to feel) and just never bothered to say out loud (or in writing) because the sentiment never managed to cross that indefinable threshold of relevance beyond which I’d feel compelled to actually express a thought to the world.

But the fact is, that acute awareness of just being “one of millions” effectively silenced me for nearly a decade. I wrote prolifically as a child and as a teenager until the day it occurred to me that there was nothing I could ever say that would ever be really new or radically interesting, because not only had everything already been said, but there were countless people out there repeating everything that had already been said in likely the same ways I was.

Which led to this depressing thought: if all of us are trying to say something, who’s going to be left to listen?

It was only years later, when passion finally overcame ambition (J.’s choice of words is uncannily precise as always) that I thought: to hell with being one among millions, to hell with being part of a swelling, clamoring throng—as long as I can hear my own voice it’s worth the effort to actually say something.

And who knows? Others just might listen in too.


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