Thursday, November 1, 2007

blogger hero

What is a blog except an online diary? And so bloggers and blog readers should mark and mourn the passing of Robert Shields, dead at the age of 89 on October 15. Shields was not a blogger but a diarist of amazing productivity and obsessive detail. He was also for a part of his life a Protestant minister which makes him feel a little close to me. But from 1972 until 1997 when a stroke ended his ability to type, Shields kept a diary recording his life in five minute intervals. According to his obituary by Douglas Martin in the New York Times (October 29, 2007) Shields created a 37.5 million word document filling 91 boxes, including observations on basically everything he did, from changing lightbulbs, to bathroom visits, the junk mail he recieved each day, the fluctuations of his body tempertaure and blood pressure, and his dreams. Shields told a reporter from the Seattle Times in 1994 speaking of future readers of his diary, "Maybe by looking into someone's life at that depth, every minute of every day, they'll find out something about all people."

Theological work begins with the examination of one's own life. It is from our life experiences that we mine the data which we then use to construct our worldview. The first life to look at is your own of course, but additional data can be found in the lives of other people. Other people have different and more experiences than you have, so there's more data available, and due to our common humanity, their experiences can also illuminate your own life.

Sadly, for students of Robert Shield's life, his diary will be sealed for 50 years under the terms of the agreement whereby he willed the manuscript to Washington State University. Imagine the desire to record your life obssessively but keep your observations private! How very unlike a blogger.

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