A few days ago, Doteco over at Ani-Dotes meditated on the requisites to be an aniblogger. Sometimes a post touches me deeper than usual, and this was one of them. It’s one of those posts that crops up with surprising (to me) frequency amidst the episode reviews and listicles, sandwiched between the first impressions and series reviews: It’s the “I am vulnerable” post. And I think the aniblogger community is the better off for these.

You see, our blogs are nothing without the community—that is, without each other. (Doteco touches on this.) There was a time when media and community were closely tied together, when the newspaper you read was written and printed three blocks over and serviced only your town. With the advent of the age of mass media—with radio, TV, and nationwide newspapers—that link was severed.

No, not that Link.

For the first time, you didn’t know the person who was delivering your news, and the news as often as not concerned people and events far away from your community. Not until the Internet would media enter the hands of the community again—but with a twist.

The Internet combines the closeness of community with the immense reach of mass media and a release from the limits of proximity. In other words, for the first time we can readily form communities, not because we are neighbors, but because of literally any other reason—in our case, because of a passion for anime and its extended family.

This creates some dynamics that would formerly have seemed very odd. The foremost way our community is formed and confirmed is through the printed word. (Printed on a screen, granted.) There’s usually no face to be seen, no voice to be heard, no hand to shake. It’s as if back in the pre-Mass Media era, everyone walked around with a newspaper over his or her face, and only communicated by reading each other’s newspapers and then responding with typed news articles. (And there’s the premise for your next bestselling dystopic novel!)

In short, there’s a personal aspect that is missing, and that we intuitively seek in our community, even in cyberspace. Between the ‘news’ about our common passion and interests, we also want the reassurance that there is a person to connect with on the other side. (I felt a hint of this tension when Doteco described fellow aniblogger Karandi, tongue-in-cheek, as “an A.I programmed to churn out well-written reviews on the daily with little regard for food, sleep, or writer’s block.“) How, then, to shape this personal element amidst all the ‘news’?

The same way humans always build trust: by showing and sharing their vulnerabilities, and demonstrating care and respect for the vulnerabilities of the other members of our community. That’s why I always am glad to see Arthifis writing about anxiety, or Karandi mentioning in passing being “crazy busy both with anime and with life”, or when Remy Fool revises an upcoming schedule of posts which might have been too ambitious. Your willingness to acknowledge these things adds the personal dimension back into the mix, ensuring that we have community and not just another form of mass media.

The philosopher Martin Buber describes two basic kinds of relationships between beings: I-It and I-Thou. I-It is the relationship we take as aware subjects towards unaware objects (like pizza, cats, or anime). I-Thou is the relationship we encounter with other people, who are conscious subjects like ourselves; and that’s the relation you need in order to have a community. Anime can provide the occasion for community, but it can’t provide the community itself.

As much as you might consider Asuna your waifu, you’ll never be able to have an I-Thou relationship with her. Such is the pain of living, and I’m reasonably sure the Buddha had this in mind when he announced that existence is suffering.

Thank you for building an enjoyable and respectful community.


16 thoughts on “Vulnerability in the Aniblogger Community”

  1. The personal aspect of posts is always kind of appreciated but it doesn’t need to take over the content or be all about the writer. When we follow bloggers we learn their quirks and tastes and we start predicting what they will think of a new episode or anime and be surprised by an opinion that doesn’t fit our view of them.
    There is such a fantastic community to belong to and there are so many interesting people to meet.

    1. Bingo! Yes, if it took over the blog then the blog would no longer be about anime/whatever shared interest. So just add a dash of it, not a dish of it!

      And not only are the people in this community interesting, they’re pretty respectful compared to some parts of the internet. It’s really something special.

  2. I am eternally impressed and grateful for this community and the post which allow for that sense of connection are like little treasures – this one included. Thank you!

  3. This really is a great and heartfull post! I loved it! Thank you for your words and sharing your thoughs and other people thoughts, myself included! 😀
    Posts like these is what makes our community so good!

  4. I’m always a bit hesitant to appear vulnerable in post, but I think you’ve convinced me that it isn’t something to be tepid and timid about (also wow thanks for the small shout-out, haha).

    You’re definitely right about the aniblogger community. The kindness of strangers really keeps us going! Loved this post! Martin Buber’s theory really gets me thinking (which is par for the course with your content), so thanks for that.

    1. Good to hear from you, Remy! 😺 And I’m glad you enjoyed my post! Yeah, I think it’s normal to be hesitant to appear vulnerable (especially on the web, where *anyone* can see it), and that’s probably a good thing. I’m not suggesting we ditch prudence or common sense! A bit of it does go a long way towards conveying one’s humanness (wow, that’s actually a word?!), and I think it’s that awareness of the humanity of the other person that keeps communities like ours supportive and positive. ☺️

      Yeah, Buber is amazing! 😸I need to learn more about him… And thank you for letting me know that my writing is thought-provoking, because as long as it is both that and enjoyable I’ve succeeded.

  5. I’m reading about Martin Buber — in an anime blog? How cool is that? I never cease to be impressed and amazed at the breadth of knowledge and experience in this community!

    1. Thank you! I agree, this is one of the best communities on the internet! So you’re familiar with MB, then? 😺

      1. I’m not an expert, but I remember reading him in college. The I/It I/Thou reference stuck with me even until now, and that was over 30 years ago.

        Philosophy has always fascinated me. I enjoy seeing how philosophers try to discern meaning using only empirical means. I’ve begun to wonder, though, if we should switch that around to study how best to project meaning onto the universe, given that we’re the source of consciousness? That might be judgmental, though…

        1. Excellent! Glad to know I’m not the only old member of the aniblogger community! 🙂

          Your suggestion sounds to my ears a lot like Heidegger (another Martin!) and his “Dasein”.

          There are schools of thought that prioritize things the way you propose, and certainly some kind of corrective is needed. I think that before we ask how to discern meaning in reality, we first have to reject the dualistic way of thinking about reality, traceable back to Descartes, that underlies the modern philosophical project. If we cannot go back to the pre-modern holism of the middle ages, then we can at least move forward into the non-dualism of post-modernity. Both, in my opinion, are an improvement over modernity—not that I have a dim view of modernity, just that it’s time for a corrective for modernity’s errors. Heck, one could argue it’s time for a corrective to post-modernism!

          1. “Your suggestion sounds to my ears a lot like Heidegger.”

            I’ve never heard of him! Looks like I have some reading to do!

            In general, my philosophy is a bit rusty (okay, a LOT rusty), but I think I follow your meaning.

            “There are schools of thought that prioritize things the way you propose…”

            I’ve always been suspect of concepts like non-duality, because at least according to some sources, it contains an element of spiritualism, and I’m not comfortable with using inputs from spiritualism in philosophy, which I think should proceed from empirical observation.

            Sure, as humans we want to understand patterns — that’s part of what makes us human. And sure, modernism (according to Wikipedia) tends to downplay “grand” theories (whatever “grand” means!). And yes, post-modernism tends to be cynical. But aren’t they all missing the point? Why aren’t any of these philosophical systems not aligning more with science, particularly physics? Wouldn’t it be helpful to move philosophy onto a foundation that can be proven by experimentation, so that philosophers could start from a solid foundation and speculate from there?

            Or is that what Heidegger is talking about?

            Great. Now I’m going to be philosophical the rest of the night…

            “Heck, one could argue it’s time for a corrective to post-modernism!”

            Yeah, I think its cynicism and skepticism puts it at risk in this political climate. Kinda like studying various kings of ignition sources in a lake of gasoline!

          2. Yay! Someone to talk philosophy with! 🙂

            If you’ve never read Heidegger, and even if you have, I recommend starting with someone’s introduction to him. Or perhaps better an introduction to phenomenology in general, which is the school of modern philosophy that does the best (imo) at reconciling the “consciousness-empirical data” tension.

            I’m using non-duality in a very broad sense, and don’t mean to imply any sort of spirituality. Let me tell a little fable:

            The pre-Socratic philosophers were monists: they claimed there was one principle underlying all of reality. Thales said it was water; Parmenides said it was Stasis (or Unchanging Being); Heraclitus said it was Flux (or Change). They argued that if you posited more than one principle, you ran into contradictions. But as Socrates and Plato pointed out, the pre-Socratics tended to fall into contradictions themselves (and to fall afoul of empirical observations, incidentally). Aristotle came up with three principles that resolved all of the preceding contradictions: Being, Non-Being, and something in-between called Potency or Potentiality.

            So Dualism—two categories of absolute difference—never took off in the pre-Modern West. The Gnostics did introduce a dualistic outlook, but it was wholly grounded in mystical and spiritual thinking and, as Augustine pointed out after he became disenchanted with them, it was completely contrary to empirical observation.

            The Middle Ages built on Aristotle and Plato, largely, and proceeded with absolute faith in reason and science. In its most famous instance, the Thomistic Synthesis (based on the work of Thomas Aquinas), philosophy starts with only what can be known by observation and reason; and only when those avenues have been exhausted does it appeal to religious faith. As far as I know, there was never an age more grounded in empirical observation than the Medieval.

            What distinguished the early Modern period from the Medieval is a loss of faith in reason and science—not an absolute loss, but a sense of their limits and a desire to find those boundaries. So you get Descartes trying to doubt his observations and conclusions as much as possible; you get Kant writing his “Critique of Pure Reason”. And it was at this point that Dualism first took hold in the West, as Descartes introduced a division between the conscious ‘interior” self and the exterior other. There was still a kind of optimism, though, that guided the modern philosophical project at this stage. As modernity progressed, this optimism gave way to a kind of disenchantment.

            When modernity turned its own critical and doubtful approach upon itself, seeking its own limits, it exploded into the various forms of post-modernism. Deconstruction, in particular, literally began as a process of pointing out the contradictions in various forms of duality—what it calls “binaries”. Post-modernism tends to replace dualisms with “poles” (any pair of opposites) and the “space” or “tensions” between them. So instead of being restricted to the clear-cut categories of traditional logic, we and our ideas can inhabit different locations in the “space” between apparently contradictory ideas. An obvious example is gender: the idea of a male/female binary has been replaced with multiple gendered spectra and dimensions.

            I could speculate about what comes next—including the response to the cynicism and scepticism and disenchantment—but that would be a book in itself. 🙂

            So it’s only during late modernity that, with the rise of secularism and the decline of religion, the West—still grounded in Dualism—came to associate non-dualism, which it had rejected, with religion and spirituality, which it had likewise rejected. But historically it’s Dualism that’s associated with spirituality most of the time—from Gnosticism in the West to the Yin-Yang of the East.

            All of which is simply to give some context to my remark about non-dualism. 😀 There’s a narrower sense of non-dualism that refers specifically to the “advaita” school of thought from Hinduism, and its offshoots: That does tend more towards spirituality because of its Hindu origins. But that is not what I meant by the term.

            As for aligning philosophy more closely with science, I think that’s a great idea—but it’s science that will benefit more than philosophy. It’s philosophy that provides the categories that science assumes. To propose aligning philosophy with physics or grounding it in experimentation already presupposes certain philosophical commitments (for example, that experimentation can lead to philosophical truth). These presuppositions may be true, but they can only be supported from philosophy, not from science. If science uses a microscope to learn about bacteria, it is only because philosophy convinced him that there is value in learning about bacteria in the first place—and that there are, in fact, bacteria in the first place.

            Anyway, thank you so much for reading this far! I’m so grateful to have awesome readers like you!

          3. In reply to your “May 5, 2018 at 1:02 am” post…

            Do you teach philosophy? Seriously, your post was the most lucid and concise explanation of a philosophical trend that I’ve seen outside of academia!

            And it’s pushed me just past my ability to articulate a response! In my defense, my degree was a dual Bachelors in English and Theology, with classes in philosophy being part of the latter (the curriculum didn’t want to rely on Revelation alone; I appreciated that more broad perspective!).

            So, I’ll just make a couple of quick observations.

            First, thanks for mentioning the Thomistic Synthesis. I’m an Aristotelian Thomist whose spent more time in the Summa than anything else, but I appreciate any accurate reference to that school of thought!

            Second, “To propose aligning philosophy with physics or grounding it in experimentation already presupposes certain philosophical commitments (for example, that experimentation can lead to philosophical truth).” What I’m trying to say is subtly different, but I lack the vocabulary. Plunging ahead anyway, I’m suggesting that there are two assumptions it might be helpful for us to remove. First, that there are philosophical truths (as opposed to facts) to discover in any of the sciences independent of sentience (i.e., no meaning pre-exists). Second, that experimentation can lead to truths as entities that exist independent of us or other sentients.

            Those might be the same thing; I’m not sure. The key idea is that if we take seriously the idea that we evolved, like the rest of the universe, from nothing (ex nihilo), then we need to consider the possibility that there is no meaning independent of those to whom meaning is important.

            If that’s the case, then we need to step up and take responsibility for that meaning. Modern trends in philosophy tend towards negativity (at least what I’ve seen) because there seems to be a despair of ever finding universal truths or meaning.

            The major theological movements have failed because they’re either based on injustice (which is destined to failure as humans awaken to ideas like freedom), or their implementation was co-opted by humans looking for power (self-perpetuating patriarchal power structures, for example). So what’s left?

            What’s left is just this: We decide what principles are valuable. We build consensus that justice and mercy are concepts we value, and we make them stick. Not because the universe is calling us to those things; not because a deity demands we implement them (or everlasting flame awaits — that’s a strange way to articulate love!). But because we, the sentients, think it’s the best way forward.

            To put it into theological terms (I’m not claiming proficiency here, but at least I’m better with theology than in philosophy!): as the Second Person took on human nature through the Incarnation, maybe our role (if we decide it’s so) is to become the Person to nature, potentially rising the entirety of this cosmos to sentience.

            No doubt, multiple schools of thought have already considered this and rejected it, but based on what I think I understand of current trends, I don’t see a more effective direction to go.

            You get points for making me think so hard about these comments!

          4. Hey Terranceacrow! I know it’s been two weeks since you posted your comment, and I haven’t forgotten! Just had a lot of work stuff to take care of, and I wanted to give your reply the attention it deserved.

            Thanks for your kind words! I don’t teach philosophy—my background is actually literature—but I’ve had enough contact with it to learn some. So you’re a fellow English major?! High five for Team English! B-) And despite your modesty you can identify yourself as an Aristotelian Thomist, a position I greatly respect.

            It sounds to me like you’ve identified some problems in the modernist project and are trying to express them in post/modernist terms. I wouldn’t say that the major theological movements have failed—there’s quite a lot of life and growth in many of them—but the movements that you identify as “unjust”, “co-opted for power”, “a deity demands we implement them”, etc., have largely run their course, I hope. But there are other views. Liberation Theology, for example, is alive and well, and is intrinsically ordered against injustice and the misuse of power.

            The “God demands it” view of things is a bit more involved to address. If you’re an Aristotelian Thomist, you’re probably familiar with the Four Causes: efficient, formal, material, and final. For anybody reading this who is not familiar with them, these basically mean “What brought X into being”, “What is X”, “What is X made of”, and “Where is X going” (including, but not limited to, purpose or intent). Modernity abandoned the idea that there’s any reality to the formal and final causes and left only the material and efficient. So materialism, for example, says that X is nothing more than what it is made of, reducing the formal to the material. The final cause is a bit more complicated for moderns to wrap our heads around, but basically it allowed for a concept of the Good that was neither purely intrinsic/subjective nor purely extrinsic/objective, but rather a harmonizing of both. (I’m not going to explain this here; it would be a book in its own right.) With the modern dualist division between self/intrinsic/subjective and other/extrinsic/objective, such a view became seen as untenable. Whatever “Good” means can only be determined, from a modern perspective, either subjectively (I decide it without reference to anything other than myself) or objectively (it is what it is regardless of whether I can understand it or not).

            The idea that God’s arbitrary rules are what determine right and wrong, called “deontology”, falls into the latter camp. (The primary alternative, “teleology”, depends upon the idea of the final cause and therefore gets rejected in the modern period.) But that idea of God as wholly unintelligible and seemingly arbitrary, though logically respectable, seems fundamentally at odds with the idea of a loving God who wants to enter into a relationship with us, to know and be known by us. Many of us find it intuitively unsatisfying. So what’s the alternative? A purely subjective idea of the Good (seen in things like moral relativism)? Your proposal tries to find a middle ground, in that the Good is subjective (determined by the self) but not solely interior because, to the extent it is discussed with others, it becomes exterior as well. So there’s a kind of post-modern take here.

            Beyond this, you might like taking a look at CS Lewis’s short book, “The Abolition of Man”, which addresses in more detail (and from a neutral, not Christian, perspective) some of the issues you’ve raised. And although I’ve not read anything by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, my understanding is that he went a long way towards harmonizing Christianity with Evolution in a way similar to what you’ve articulated here.

            Always a pleasure chatting with you!

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