A couple of months ago, I wrote a bit about my reasoning for maintaining this and other webspaces, as well as keeping a journal and doing the other writing that I do. I note in it that I had not at that time poured a slab for any kind of concrete answer to why I do this kind of thing. I suppose that, in making the comment, I dug a bit of a hole, opening space into which I could lay a foundation.
As I think on it, I am reminded of such questions from my teaching days. (I am, perhaps, stretching a point to speak of that work as quite so far gone, but 2020 has seemed to extend interminably.) I would not seldom get the question of why I studied what I studied; I usually replied with “the jokes,” and it is the case that there is a lot of humor–some overt, some more subtle, some quite vulgar–in the works written in older Englishes. (Yes, plural.) But that is not the whole of it; the jokes themselves are not enough, or there is more going on than wry comments and ribaldry, much as I enjoy both.
I have long enjoyed puzzling out what’s going on in what I read. For me, tracing the references and exploring their meanings is satisfying. (I was going to type “fun,” but the connotations of that aren’t really applicable; “fun” employs greater physical activity and less restraint.) It is enjoyable in the same way that building something is enjoyable, at least for me; it is not play and would not be mistaken for such, but it is an accomplished thing, and, when traced out as an essay in one medium or another, it is something that can be pointed to as having been done, some record of the actions undertaken.
Leaving such a record here and elsewhere and undertaking the actions that support my doing so seems as good an answer as any to “Why do I keep doing this?” (So is the “for you” I gave when I announced the earlier piece online.) I enjoy doing this stuff, in the main; I enjoy reading and discussing what I have read and what I find in what I read, and I enjoy laying out something like my thoughts where others can see them, as doing so helps me to form them more fully for myself. And I am vain enough to be flattered when I see that others are viewing what I put out into the world, to think that they might be of some help to somebody, somewhere, sometimes. (I have direct attestation that something I’ve done was helpful, which was nice.)
I cannot speak to the walls that will rise. But I think they’ll have something to rest upon, at least.