Friday, February 06, 2009

On blogging, integrity and friendship

It is exactly three years since I became a blogger. It was all my son's fault, I don't think I knew what a blog was until he invited me to read an article he had written for The Daily Duck. I became a silent reader of that blog and Andrew's own blog, Think of England until I eventually plucked up the courage to leave a few comments. It was a short step from there to starting Random Distractions and I was delighted when Andrew (Brit) and his Duckian friends dropped by for a bit of chocolate cake and a chat.

I have always been somewhat in awe of the Duckians, they are all so intelligent, well-read and articulate but they have always been patient and kind towards Brit's mum, none more so than Duck himself; so I consider them my first blogging friends and I feel for all of them at this saddest of times. In his tribute to Duck, Skipper speaks of the significance of friendships developed through blogging and how, although most people use a nickname and may choose to preserve their anonymity, the real person is always clear for all to see. He uses a comment left here by D of 60goingon16 to illustrate the reality of these online friendships: "
One of the most positive aspects of blogging is the new dimension it has brought to the nature of friendship, as we and many others have discovered."

This new dimension of friendship has been the subject of off-blog conversations between us (D, me and our not-yet-real-life friend on the Muddy Island0. We all agree that the truth and integrity of a person can be clearly seen through their writing and that we soon cease to visit blogs when we sense that the writer is not being sincere. We are also equally sure that the friendships we have developed are as important to us as those we have established through personal encounters. It is not surprising, therefore, to recognise the real sense of loss and grief among those who established friendships with Duck, even if they never met Robert.

The downside of this online friendship is that at a time such as this there is no ritual or process to help everyone through it. When my friend Gavin died in October last year, we were able to attend his funeral service, to exchange stories and memories with his family and friends, to shed tears and share laughter together. It was a necessary cathartic experience. Words will have to suffice for bloggers.

I'll let Vera Brittain have the final word on friendship and then tomorrow, perhaps, I'll feel able to return to my more random distractions:

But of this at least I feel certain: that whether or not the spirit of man is destined for some unknown flowering in a life hereafter, the benevolence of the good and the courage of the undefeated remain, like the creative achievements of the richly-gifted, a part of the heritage of humanity for ever. As such, they attain their own shining immortality, though it is not without tears that we see them pass from our individual experience.

The splendours of the firmament of time
may be eclipsed
, but are extinguished not;
Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
and death is a low mist which cannot blot
the brightness it may veil.

from Testament of Friendship


  1. It is hard to express the loss of an online friend I imagine. In 'real-life' we can find solace in the others who too have experienced the loss - a hug, a tear...whatever helps. Like you say online there is no ritual through which to say goodbyes and find 'closure'.

    I'm sorry your blog friend has passed away.

  2. Thanks for this tribute to your friend and to online friendship which is so hard to define (or explain to the unbeliever).

  3. Sarah and Ali, I'm sure that all the online friends of Robert will appreciate your kind words.

  4. we soon cease to visit blogs when we sense that the writer is not being sincere.

    In some cases, yes, but one may also decide to distance oneself from a blog out of respect for the host, especially when one realizes he doesn't know the first thing about cooking, quilting or coastal walks. :-)

    I think the reason we are all aching so much is because, as Andrew said in his tribute, we now realize we had something very special going for a few years born of a common love of argument, but also an ability to take as good as we gave and a shared understanding that we were never all that far away from the absurd in our "brilliant" arguments. Nobody knew this better than Duck and it showed. In fact he was the only one as I recall who never pouted or went into a snit, a common hazard of endless intellectual arguments by umm..."healthy" superegos. I still blog too much here and there and I've never found anything like it. In fact, I usually have to wade through endless invective and idiocy before finding a good exchange, and when I do they never last long. The political/intellectual side of the blogosphere is not a nice place and is full of a lot a pompous, nasty losers. With Duck, the warmth and generosity of his character miraculously came out through the pixils. That is why he was so exceptional and why we grieve.

  5. Peter,
    My brain is too slow and my skin too thin for me to engage in those high-powered discussions, but I love to observe them! I can always think of something smart to say two or three days after the discussion ends - it was ever thus.

    It was Andrew who suggested I should let RD develop as a bookish and domestic blog and I've met lots of really nice like-minded people because of that. However, the Daily Duck has remained a favourite and I think of all of you as rather special. I had some interesting discussions with Duck by email, he was all that everyone has been writing about him and I feel for all of in your loss of such a friend.


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