The following was recently posted at the Antelope Valley College website, and I thought I’d put it up here as well:
Santi Tafarella Talks About the Ultimate Freedom: Uncensored Thinking
Recently AVC faculty member Santi Tafarella passed an amazing number. . . his independent, un-sponsored, just him in his PJs blog passed one million hits. (That was over a month ago, and it’s still scooting along.) Titled “Prometheus Unbound,” it talks about politics, museums, art, literature, religion, philosophy, and about ten thousand other topics besides. As we approach the 9/11 weekend, here is what he has to say about his blog and its numbers.
WHY I BLOG
Some people around campus have noticed that my blog, which I started in June of 2008, has passed the million hit mark and want to know the reason why I blog. I’ll offer three.
Here’s my first answer. Freedom.
I named my blog after Percy Shelley’s poem, Prometheus Unbound. Shelley was an atheist at a time when it was not safe to be an atheist, and in that poem Shelley imagines Prometheus freed from the rock that the king of the gods, Zeus, had bound him to.
Shelley’s poem was a response to an ancient Greek play by Aeschylus titled Prometheus Bound. In Aeschylus’s version of the Prometheus myth, Zeus’s binding of Prometheus to a rock as punishment for stealing fire from heaven was completely justified. By Aeschylus’s lights, Prometheus had done something villainous because all beings must respect the sacred order. It is, according to Aeschylus, madness to fight the gods. You should know your place, and accept it.
But, as an atheist, Shelley didn’t accept his place. What he saw as wrong in the world—including what he found wrong in religion—he meant to change. And so, in his poem, he celebrates Prometheus and unbinds him. Shelley’s Prometheus is a symbol of freedom (much as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom).
Likewise, my blog, named after Shelley’s Prometheus, is a place where I exercise my freedom; where I speak my mind.
I speak my mind on my blog because I’m of the opinion that adults can hear things. The first Americans fought a revolution in 1776 that individuals might obtain liberty, including the liberty to speak forthrightly in public. And a great deal of blood has been spilled since then to assure that we retain this liberty.
So, I blog because I’m a free individual. Because I’m a member of no flock. I’m not a sheep. Sheep don’t blog (unless they’re just repeating—bleating—what they hear around them). Sheep don’t think. I’m a thinker. I think about things. And I speak.
Every time I put a blog post out into the world saying exactly what I think, not writing under a pseudonym, I strike a small blow for human integrity and greater intellectual freedom in the world. It’s pushback against all would-be censors. And this is true of every person who takes up blogging, whatever their views on religion and politics, or what it is they choose to obsess about. It does wonders for the soul to exercise the habit of expressing yourself openly—to be out there, a free person in the world who will not be shut up.
So, when people ask me what I’m doing blogging, I ask them, if they claim to have free souls and minds, what they’re doing not blogging.
The second reason I blog is to discover truth.
Socrates noticed that one way that a human being can come to the truth of a matter is by a process of dialectic—of dialogue—and blogging is ideal for this. This comes in two forms: inner dialogue and outer dialogue. When, for example, I’m writing a blog post, I’m in a Jacob-wrestling process of inner dialogue: Do I really believe what I’m saying? Should I say it differently? Is there a way I can say it better? What am I neglecting here?
And when the blog is posted, things shift to an outer dialogue: people will come around, read what I wrote, and in the comment threads (the “comboxes”) throw me for a loop, thinking of something (or an angle on the matter) that hadn’t occurred to me. Agonistic give-and-take with others helps me think; helps me get at the truth of matters. Two heads are better than one. And ten heads in a vigorous comments thread are better still.
The third reason I blog is the sheer pleasure of writing. If I’m going to be a writing instructor, I better practice writing of some sort on a daily basis. And I better like it. And I do.
I’ve always thought of the light of Prometheus as consciousness rather than freedom. It gives us free will, something which is usually confounded with freedom. The rock Zeus ties Prometheus to is our instinctual human nature. It’s like when Oprah says you can do anything if you put your mind to it, but then fails to lose weight. Or when top notch feminists stay single or marry someone in the demographically speaking microscopic group of men who are higher up in the social order than themselves. It’s like you saying “I’m a member of no flock” but you wouldn’t you save your children at the expense of other people? Most of us would. Blood and history ties people together in flocks. Even if you hate your ex, the bond remains strong. So talk the talk all you like, but if you try to walk the walk then Zeus will set you straight.
That said, I think we have some freedom. We can make minor adjustments, walk the walk in baby steps. I think anyone who has made a real and lasting change in their lives know this – it’s hard work and slow progress. Even liberals know it, who however don’t generalize this knowledge to other situations for ideological reasons.
BTW, congrats on a million hits! Even though I often disagree with you, I still think this is one of the best blogs out there. Glad to see so many others like it too.
Like you, I’m torn over the meaning of Prometheus. Is it a form of hubris to admire Prometheus? I agree with you that he is a symbol of the fire of consciousness. He is also a fit symbol of technology and the arts.
But he is also, certainly, a symbol of the conservative-liberal divide; the Barack Obama of Greek mythology. Sitting together in a classroom or a coffee bar, conservatives and liberals will read Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound very differently.
Who is the hero of the play? What is justice?
For example, the conservative Eric Voegelin, in his classic essay, “Science, Politics, and Gnosticism”, complains that Karl Marx misread Prometheus Bound to his own revolutionary ends, misreading Aeschylus’s intent. And, of course, Shelley brings to the Prometheus myth interpretive latitude that the ancient Greeks might not have recognized (or, in any event, might not have wanted to speak too openly and directly about).
Byron also has a Prometheus poem that is rather anti-Zeus.
Thanks, BTW, for the kind words about the blog.