I’ve written 85 WordPress blog posts over the course of about three years. And I’m finally starting to understand the point of it.
In class, we’ve been discussing different approaches to communication as laid out by a guy named John Peters, a longtime professor at the University of Iowa. He describes communication as happening from one of two frameworks: dialogue or dissemination.
Dialogue is what Socrates did. It’s very back and forth, but it demands a return. If I speak, I want to make sure that you get it. I want to make sure there’s a return for my investment in the conversation. Ideally, at the end, you’ll believe the same way that I believe. It’s like the parable of the workers in the vineyard who wanted everyone to be payed only for the amount they’d done. Successful communication happens when you respond favorably to what I tell you.
Dissemination is what Jesus did (especially when teaching the crowds). It’s not back and forth, and it doesn’t demand anything from the audience. When I speak, I am speaking as truthfully as I know how, but it’s not important that you get it. I am not trying to manipulate you into believing the same way I do. I don’t depend on your approval or your applause. I care deeply about you as a person, but not so much about what you think of my speech. I speak not because I have an answer to give you, but because I seek an answer. Successful communication happens when I speak in pursuit of the truth.
When I stared writing on WordPress, I did so mainly as a place to put pictures. Images are safe, people don’t look down at you for pictures (as much). And then I started moving toward more word based posts. And words are not as safe. Words are charged with opinions, beliefs, eloquence (or not so much), and style. It was intimidating. I was always asking myself, “Why are you writing? You don’t really have much to say..”
Lately, my perspective has shifted concerning why I write. And for that matter why I host a podcast or just speak to people in general. It is NOT first and foremost because I have something to say, not because I have knowledge that you need to have, not because you need to believe like I do. I write to articulate my own journey toward the truth. I write as an act of seeking, speak as an act of searching. My communication is my path towards truth.
And I think this is why it’s valuable to read blog posts, to listen to people tell you their story, to have breakfast face to face. It gives us a chance to flesh out our own stories, to articulate our steps forward. I first started to realize this when I began meeting with my mentor. We would have breakfast every other Thursday in the same restaurant booth. And he really never gave me that much advice – but he listened so well. He gave me a space to lay out my situation before another person and make the best sense of it I could. I always walked away feeling so refreshed.
Earlier tonight, I talked for about an hour with an old friend in a dark parking lot. And a few minutes ago I read a rather un-insightful blog post. I think that both were potentially worthwhile acts of communication. From the context of dissemination, communication is done as a pursuit of truth. And if people are blessed along the way, then it’s an even greater thing. The professor teaching the class I referenced says that he’s taught this material many many times, and the year he teaches it without learning anything will be the year he finds something else to do with his life. He teaches as an articulation of his own pursuit of truth.
We ought to listen to each other. And, 86 blog posts later, I thank you for affording me that kindness.