Guest Blog by Ian Ralby: No Idle Words….

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I am extremely lucky. Each week, I get to read my mother’s blogs before they are published. I get to wrestle with them, comment on them and learn from them before they become public. And each week, I get to see how important every word of them is.

Each letter is intentional; there are no idle or empty words. Often they have been carefully considered for weeks before being used in a blog, and Rohini infuses them with depth far beyond what any single reading could reveal. The fact that the subject matter on a given week might seem light or mundane does not imply that the meaning is simple.

While there have been great discussions of the blogs in group classes, those discussions have often been inspired by Rohini restating the point of a blog in different ways. People mostly do not come into class having honed in on, and wrestled with, the wisdom contained in the blog.

Sometimes, a word or expression will feel jarring. Invariably, it turns out not to be bad or careless writing but a conscious effort to alert the reader to something that needs to be noticed and understood. While the pre-posting discussions often address those spots, people seldom bring them up in class.

Close reading is not a skillset that only applies to literary texts; it is an active process that allows a reader to delve into any text and unpack its layers. Based on my experience of witnessing how Rohini’s blogs are written and what goes into them, I can say that close reading is the only way to begin to extract their full meaning.

I have blogged previously about my own experience of having either disregarded my mother’s words, or having been selective as to which ones I wanted to hear and follow. The same lesson applies to Rohini’s blogs. I ignore or disregard a portion of the blogs to my own detriment.

I have also blogged about my own experience of guest blogging and the benefit of having to be rigorous in articulating a point that had seemed clear, but proved fuzzy when put on paper. I thought that expressing the benefits of that process would inspire others to want to engage in it as well. Yet few people have expressed interest. Even when I announced the opportunity to guest blog, hardly anyone came forward. So my hope has changed. If people are not interested in writing their own guest blogs, I at least hope they will read Rohini’s blogs with more care.

“It was beautiful.” “I loved it.” “It made me see my own piece in this.” “I felt love when reading it.” These are some of the comments that seem to start off the class discussion of every blog. Empty words, indiscriminately applied to all Rohini’s blogs with virtually no regard for their content. But more importantly, these sorts of comments are discussion killers. When we respond to a challenging blog with a mundane nicety, we lose the chance to unpack the depth of what’s been given to us. If the starting point is “beautiful,” it closes down the chance to delve into the less-than-beautiful reality of our experience. Rohini pours effort and understanding into the blogs; it is an insult to respond to them without any effort or any understanding.

We all need to give Rohini’s blogs the careful attention they deserve—before we show up in class. When we do that, we can ask questions that fulfill the purpose of the blog. We don’t have to come to class “knowing” what a blog is about, but we do have to have put time and effort into reflecting on what it could be about, and on how we see it.

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