This continues my reply to Dymphna's letter, published earlier today.
After studying your blog layout I am quite certain that you look at the blog sidebar from the vantage point of being plugged into the blogosphere, which is quite distinct from blogging. For the edification of readers who are not bloggers:
The blogosphere is a creation of linking and specifically bloggers linking to each other's blogs -- both permanently (sidebar) or via links embedded in posts. The sphere of links is the basis of the ranking system used by EZ Bear to define the blogosphere ecosystem, even though many bloggers are not ranked in EZ Bear and thus, their links to a blog are not tracked by EZ Bear. You can see this by comparing links shown on Technorati with links shown on EZ Bear; not all the Technorati links show up on EZ Bear. And EZ Bear does not track links to blogs that are picked up by subscription websites.
(Technorati in turn does not record many links for reasons I've never understood; it might have something to do with software. And they too do not show links put up by subscription sites -- at least, not the subscription sites that have linked to my posts.)
Of course EZ Bear also tracks by daily readership number provided the blogger uses Site Meter tracking software. But it is entirely possible to receive a high ranking on EZ Bear even with a low daily readership, simply through the mechanism of permanent linking, which is why so many blogs have an extensive blogroll.
Those who value the sense of community the blogosphere affords, or who blog primarily to promote themselves in some way (e.g., as a book author) take linking very seriously just because the ranking system attached to it helps give their blog publicity and thus, helps increase readership.
So they would be horrified (and some have expressed horror) at Pundita's attitude toward her blogroll. I would put up links then yank them a short while later. Then some names would return only to be yanked again. Once I yanked the entire blogroll.
Finally a loyal reader wrote that my constant fiddling with the blogroll was driving her crazy. I settled down a bit after that, then came another bout of fiddling. I eventually settled on nine permanent links. The tenth (Sumedh Mungee) I had up for a short while, then yanked, then restored only a few days ago after naming him for a 2005 Pundita Weblog Award.
The above suggests that I did not look at the sidebar from the vantage point of being a member of the blogosphere. I was looking at it as way to make a gift for my readers and anyone who came across the Pundita blog, against the time I would be leaving. But it was just an idea at first; over time I struggled with the gift in the manner of a novice cook who is making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There was a lot of improvisation and correction involved.
Excluding the link to Dave Schuler's The Glittering Eye blog (which is my symbolic thanks to the blogosphere), if you study the sidebar links as a whole, there are two snapshots: one of the Bush administration's view of the war and foreign policy issues. The other is a snapshot of views in:
> Asia (Simon World)
> Russia/Central Asia/Europe (Untimely Thoughts) and
> via Sudan Watch and other of Ingrid Jones's Africa blogs linked on Sudan Watch:
-- global development and aid issues
-- United Nations
-- global oil politics
-- environmental problems; e.g., water scarcity
In other words, Ingrid's Sudan Watch is not just about the Darfur crisis, or about Sudan or even Africa. It's a window on the developing world and related issues, all of which are important to US foreign policy.
This is not counting the link to John Batchelor's website, which daily has links to the best reports on important issues here and abroad, and which reviews books that deal with the full range of 21st century issues.
I wanted to find an all-Canada and Mexico blog, and also a south and central American blog or at least an all-Latin American blog. I hope to have the time to pursue that goal once I stop blogging. Those blogs would help complete the big picture.
Mungee's blog is also important because it helps round out the picture in India; it's also a window on ICT for people who are not in that field, which is profoundly shaping the modern era. It's also a window on rural development -- and something more:
Study the photograph at the top of the blog: A man in tribal clothes squatted in a verdant field, showing a child how to use a PDA. There it is, in one photograph: the early 21st century across the world. All the promise and challenge of this era are captured in the picture. You've heard of the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason? Well, this is the Age of Human Resources.
So that is my gift to people who return to Pundita's blog to root around in the archives or who come upon it for the first time. I found a few blogs that together convey our world in a way that's not readily apparent from the nightly news.
I have thought about adding a link category for bloggers I like and who are plugged into the blogosphere. I thought of calling it "American potluck" or somesuch. But after thinking over all the above, my heart tells me to leave well enough alone, at least for now.
Who knows? If I return to the blogosphere, I might do it in a right proper way -- comment section, trackback, participating in blogger carnivals, politicking to get into a Whizbang Awards, endlessly visiting other blogs and adding my comments in order to promote my blog, putting into practice the great marketing advice that Dan Riehl has given me, and writing many essays about other bloggers' essays.
Thank you again for writing to say goodbye, Dymphna. I will leave you with a cautionary observation and a traveler's tale; why the latter has come to mind while reading your 'personal' blog, I do not know. But I wrote "Another kind of beer" for you.
Note the caption at Sumedh Mungee's blog: "There is no box."
That's right; there is no box and there never was a box. There are just ways of thinking, and dialogue. Stop the dialogue; terrorize it into silence, and ways of thinking harden. This only means that the Genius informing every heart can't easily be heard -- but not boxed in, not gone away. It's always there as a whisper or a roar.
So that would be my answer to the question posed by Gates of Vienna:
"Does liberal humanism provide enough spiritual might to counter the Great Islamic Jihad? If not, then we have no arms to fight it with."
Neither liberal humanism nor Islam or Christianity or any religion or creed provides spiritual force. Spiritual force comes from the heart's ability to listen to the best within us.
Now about that traveler's tale....