I've written before about the process of novelization which stems naturally from the journaling process. One remains conscious when writing a LiveJournal that one is writing for a potential audience. One remains aware as well as a regular reader of Livejournals that the writer creates something which is not quite "reality" in the way a grocery list is reality. In some instances, intentional omissions arise in the journal, for justifiable reasons such as privacy, entertainment value or a wish to achieve one tone rather than another. In somewhat rarer instances, the casual fictions of everyday life give way to more elaborate fictions--in a few journals it is obvious that the journalist is re-slanting the facts a bit here and there. Sometimes writers do this subtly; just as often, a factual asynchrony arises directly in the journal. In the rare but not uncommon journal, the reader feels that an important fact (what I call "the missing fact") omitted from the journal would re-string the entire bow and arrow of the journal.
I'm much less interested in this post, though, in the writer's ability to deceive, or in the reader's ability to discern. Instead, I'm interested in the way that a LiveJournal becomes the paint set from which I paint entire images of the lives of the journalists. I notice that one or two of the folks on my friends' lists recount fairly elaborate dreams involving LJ friends. My own dreams tend to be less vivid and less connected to anything interesting, including LiveJournal. I do notice, however, that in my mind I paint entire mental portraits of the person whose journal I read and with whom I interact. I tend to have a reasonably good memory, blessed with a head for details revealed in a journal. With any journal I read for any period of time, I tend after a month or two to have a full color painting of the journalist locked away in my mind. I know that a more scientific approach would be to take each fact as a jigsaw, and never fill in the empty spaces for which no piece has been provided. But I instead take each journal as a canvass, and each entry as one more thing with which I can fill in the white spaces.
In my half year on LiveJournal, I've developed the belief that journals should always be read sympathetically, but never be taken utterly literally. Sometimes when a journalist writes "I am devastated", that person is utterly devastated. Sometimes when a journalist writes "I am devastated", this is Tower of Babel speak for "I had a very minor irritation for five minutes today". Accordingly, one cannot be much of a fundamentalist when reading the Holy (and wholly) writ of a LiveJournal. Journalists work in myterious ways.
I believe, though, that journals have a truth in them which transcends their literal truth. This is the mosaic of little notions, common feelings, quirky ways of seeing life, that are the true "I recognize this" for me as I read any journal. I find very comforting when somebody whose life is very different than mine has an insight or a moment about which I can say "this is real for me". It doesn't matter if I am missing the boat altogether. It matters that I have that sacred moment with a journal.
But in order to process the journal, I'm intrigued but not surprised that I have a hard time resisting "filling in the blanks" for the journals I read. I heard one of those "this is not really a commercial commercials" on public radio today for an art exhibit and auction based on Lite Brite. Lite Brite was that kid's toy in which one punched little plastic colored pegs onto a construction paper canvass illuminated by lights. The result was that one could make a literal light picture of different colored pegs. Livejournals are like that Lite Brite canvass. I read the journal, and the writer artfully shows me many of the colors through which the journaling light has shined. But once I have read for a few weeks, I find that I am soon filling in all the spaces without colored pegs, with little lights of my own. What started as a journal which gave a pen and ink sketch of a fascinating journalist becomes a rococo plush art work based on a pen and ink sketch of a fascinating journalist, with gold and silver filigree by Gurdonark. My deductive sense, my intuitive sense and sheer fantasy combine to "flesh out" in my mind what Paul Harvey called "The Rest of the Story".
In three recent instances I've seen the flaws in this approach. In one, I made a comment which was entirely correct based on X assumption, in response to a "friends only" post in a journal. In my own life, X assumption is virtually the only assumption I could ever make about the factual matter under discussion. My journaling friend pointed out to me, with incredible tact and forthrightness that (not X) was actually the working assumption that I should have made. That literally made all the difference--though frankly (not X) is so remote from my own thinking, I would never have painted in that person's assumption in that way (I apologize for my vagueness, but I cannot with integrity be more specific). In another instance, I did a detailed commentary on a question based on round upon round of assumption I derived from what a journalist had been saying. But we don't write our journals as history,exactly, or a science text, exactly, or as anything other than Higher Truth, perhaps. Without meaning to be profane, every journal in some ways is the Key to Science and Health in My Life, not a matter for literal, material absorption, but a key to a remote metaphysical journey to view some images the journalist wants us to see. So I found myself trying to apply journal notes to Real Life to "draw conclusions", and realized how utterly apples and orangish a practice this might be. In a third instance, I posted on the law board of vault.com a mild and fairly moderate defense of the modern version of Affirmative Action. One of the other posters there, while cloaking his/her views in tones that suggested that this was a sad lapse indeed due to my prior intelligent replies, pointed out that the poster did not believe I could reasonably with honesty to myself even hold the views I held. The poster's views, sadly tinged a bit WAY FAR to the right of my own, simply did not allow consideration of an alternative viewpoint.
These disturbing "one of these things is not like the other" aside,
I still rather like that I have in my mind virtually a completed fingerpainted mosaic of just who each of my friends is "really".
I know that fingerpaints do not really draw a very accurate picture. When I try to render that picture into words from time to time, I see the limitations in my art. I have learned in my work to trust my intuition, but not to trust my impressions of people. Indeed, my work credo has become NTA--never trust anyone. I am good at dealing with fraud cases, I find, because I am so easy to defraud. I can imagine how the person felt deceived, and try to prove the misstatements. I should mention in passing, by the way, that frauds are often the nicest people. They charm one utterly while they pull the wool over one's eyes. But leaving my work aside, in the Gurdonark gallery there are literally dozens of really neat fingerpaintings, each representing an LJ friend, a few representing an LJ I visit once in a while. I know that it is possible that each portrait is merely a portrait of Gurdonark's projections, splashed lightly with entries from your journal. But once in a great long while, the fingerpaints, if not exactly you, seem animated in just the most intriguing ways. Some mornings I can hardly wait to read, and dab a little more paint on a littlee more accurately. Maybe someday all the Gurdonark projection will be painted over, and I'll see only the journal(s) my friends wish to present. Wouldn't that be grand? It's odd, isn't it? It's not important whether one knows the LJ'er's "real name" or sees the LJ'ers picture. Those are nice little things, and I feel glad to see/know those things, but they aren't what matters. What matters is something else, which in church I might call a soul, but here, I'll call a LiveJournal.