One of the intended purposes of my blog is to help spur on conversations on various topics, and from time to time my readers oblige my wish for my blogging to be an aid to interpersonal communication in a variety of ways. Today I would like to comment on a few of the ways that my readers have recently communicated with me in ways that I found to be noteworthy and interesting. In many cases, these readers have responded to a blog entry of mine with comments that have extended the discussion in ways that corresponded with the readers’ own thinking process, and as I find that fascinating, I would like to talk about this, with the names removed as is my usual habit. Obviously, the people who talked with me will know who they are, but hopefully not everyone else will focus on the identity of the communicator rather than the nature of the communication, which is more important anyway.
Recently, a sermonette prompted me to write about my complicated relationship with the biblical blessing about sleep . This commentary and its approach led a friend of mine and loyal reader to request that I use this same approach to talk about a subject of mutual interest in relating to the unfulfilled longings for family that single people and barren women often have. These are issues that I have thought about rather deeply, although I do not tend to think that they lend themselves to one post, but rather a series of posts that deal with related concerns. As far as the reason why I have not posted at length about these subjects, even if I have thought about them before, there are at least a couple of reasons. For one, some of the discussion is deeply personal, and I often like to keep as much as possible a gap between the personal motivations to write about something from the content that is being written about, although it is not always possible to do so. Writing about my own frustrated longings would threaten, at least in my own mind, to overwhelm the necessary balance and restraint that I prefer when it comes to writing about subjects of biblical interpretation. In addition to that, the subject of unfulfilled longings for family on the part of some relates to its complement, namely the phenomenon of unwanted children in casual relationships or who have been conceived as a result of rape, another loaded issue that has a great deal of contemporary significance when we look at the abortion debate and the dark question of divine providence in such matters. As of yet, I have not decided to enter this minefield, but at least a couple of people have urged me to enter it, and so perhaps I shall at some point.
This morning, I looked in my inbox and found an e-mail from a reader who wanted me to read her husband’s book. I get this request often enough that I don’t always comment on it, but there was an aspect about the writer’s comments that I thought would be worth sharing, which began as follows: “Dear Nathan, I enjoyed your review of Simon Maltman’s latest book – The Sidewinder – which led me to your site where I lost a half hour among your other writing. Very thought-provoking material, and far better presented than the average blog. My compliments…” This e-mail is an example of several simultaneous communication strategies that I find interesting. For one, it reminds me that those who read books are often asked to read more books, even when their reading does not organically inspire further reading for contrast and context. In this case, my reading of Mr. Maltman’s excellent Belfast noir books has led other writers in that same general world of British and Irish noir fiction to solicit my reviews and recommendations to potential readers, and as the author included the book, it is likely that I will get to it at some point, although admittedly my review schedule on my blog is already in the second half of next month. In addition, I was amused by the compliments the author provided. As someone who loses a great deal of time through reading things online, which feeds my own writing, I am pleased to waste the time of others in like fashion.
Finally, some readers of mine make explicit what I prefer to leave implicit. One reader commented on a recent post  that her home was a cold place at the end of the world when the fire died out and that many people thought it was simply too far. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time there, I must admit that its remoteness is quite a big part of its appeal. I enjoy places at the end of the world, so to speak, that can be cooled down if they are hot or heated up if they are cold, and whose remoteness gives a sense of distance from the anxieties and pressures of the outside world. The comment is nonetheless appropriate, and at least somewhere in my mind I was making the implicit connection between the remote places I have traveled to around the world and want to travel to that I have not yet seen with the remote places I go to on a regular basis. Well played. Another reader made an implicit comment of mine explicit when commenting on the fact that those of us who can perform well on short notice end up enabling poor planning on the part of those responsible for scheduling and planning events. All of this is true, but it would be uncharitable to bring shame and embarrassment on others simply because one did not get as much notice as one would prefer. One of the more important, albeit less pleasant, forms of self-sacrifice is dealing with the spontaneous and unplanned or haphazardly planned when one would prefer things to be well-planned and well-thought out. Not everyone handles this lack of preparation with equal grace, or handles every such situation with tact. Again, this question of enabling on the one hand and the graciousness required to engage in sacrificing one’s own preference for better planning was one I left implicit, hoping the reader would draw one’s own conclusions, but some people like to make explicit what is left implicit. All of this, quite unsurprisingly, inspires further writing to clarify and juxtapose, though.