On The Nature Of Blogs V: Reflections On Stability And Instability

A friend recently pointed out the use of the word “destabilize” in one of my Ventrilo-Dialogues. Here’s the video:

He liked the idea of “destabilizing the notion of authorship” enough that he mentioned it to me several times. That got me thinking. And since it was me who wrote those words in the first place (that’s how Ventrilo-Dialogues work, after all), I considered again this idea of destabilization.

In our everyday experience we try to avoid destabilizing things and pursue instead some degree of constant stability. This extends to the people and things dear to us: whether we’re talking about our relationships or our machines, we want them to work consistently, we want them to be reliable, we want them to endure for a long, long time. But we also seek change and novelty, because too much stability can feel like stasis. In other words, sometimes instability is good. To make an analogy from sports training (with musical overtones): long and steady gets you in a groove, but great benefits can accrue from short bursts of more intense activity that intentionally destabilizes the system. 

When I mentioned in my Ventrilo-Dialogue their potential to destabilize the notion of authorship, I was referring to the idea of assigning voice to people, things, and even concepts without their permission in order to shake things up–to see where the ventriloquized ideas might take me. Thinking about it now, I wonder if an unstated goal of this blog has been to write about music, sound, and culture in pursuit of destabilizing ideas. I want to dismantle and unpack things as well as my own assumptions, habits, and even likes and dislikes. I want to shake things up. 

I’m not sure how far I’ve actually traveled down this destabilizing road though. For me, the ventrilo-dialogues, quirky as they are, maybe go some distance, at least as experiments, as do a few other posts (such as one that explores music listening habit loops vis-a-vis country music, one that explores composing Another Kind Of Wonder, one that interviews a friend about Jamaican Nyabinghi music, and maybe a few others). But ironically, one obstacle may be the fact that I tend to write about what I like or about what gets me thinking. This is good, but maybe not intrinsically destabilizing. Maybe I haven’t gone deep enough to find the destabilizing bits? Maybe I’m just not innately critical, not the critiquing type? Or is this questioning itself the beginning of future critical, destabilizing moves?

Anyway, as one of my teachers once said, this isn’t a criticism, just an observation. But still: Is blogging an art project or a critical writing project, or both? Or more precisely: is it an art project disguised as a writing project, or a writing project disguised as an art project?

2 thoughts on “On The Nature Of Blogs V: Reflections On Stability And Instability

  1. Tom, I so appreciate this!
    As a pastor I am struck by the very helpful notion of de-stabilizing authorship. I preach, but am always only entering into an ongoing conversation (amongst friends, even within people’s thoughts) about whatever the topic might be. I am constantly trying to invite people into the arena…even when they are expecting a one-way lecture. Theologian Soren Kirkegaard said that important truths can only be transmitted “indirectly” due to our habituated notions of send/receive and typical resistances we build up to keep ourselves “stable” Your Call to dismantle and unpack is a profoundly helpful and much needed strategy in helping us all learn anything beyond what we assume we already know…

    1. Thanks for reading Don and for your thoughtful comments. Some writers in anthropology have also called this a “dialogical” approach…

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