Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Beneficial Greenhouse Effect

I've been working my way through Joakin Garff's recent biography of Soren Kierkegaard, and it has been a real treat so far. Garff does a magnificent job of placing Kierkegaard's life in the wider context of early 19th-century Denmark, and he makes the streets of old Copenhagen come alive. This was the so-called Golden Age of Denmark - a time when that little country made abundant contributions to Western culture. Copenhagen was only a modest-sized town of 127,000, but as Garff describes it, the high concentration of talented people "developed a sort of intellectual greenhouse effect. Anyone and everyone was there, the major and the minor figures rubbing shoulders with one another."

The vibrancy of Kierkegaard's Copenhagen naturally makes me a little envious. Very few of us live in places that are so culturally and intellectually stimulating. However, we have a significant advantage over Golden Age Denmark - namely, the Internet, which serves as our intellectual greenhouse. I'm convinced that if Kierkegaard were to return today, he would immediately establish several blogs (most of them under pseudonyms, of course). At their best, blogs mimic the wide-open, give-and-take approach that was so characteristic of the literary scene in Kierkegaard's day. People write, ideas are circulated, others comment and debate, and everyone is engaged in the process.

Of course, the situation is rarely so "golden". Recently, Lutheran Zephyr and lutherpunk bemoaned the lack of good-natured and moderate Lutheran blogs. They have a point. For whatever reason, the "confessional" Lutherans have a bigger presence on the Internet, and many of these blogs feature rough and nasty commentary. But I don't think we have cause for despair. What the ELCA blogs lack in numbers they make up for in quality. The blogs I frequent are produced by intelligent, lively, and considerate people, and I'm continually amazed by the quality of their writing. It was these blogs that encouraged me to start my own.

No comments: