Being the Cause of a Blog
It feels good to type words for this blog again. Not doing so for months left me uneasy in a way I didn't expect. I'd like to interrogate that feeling.
There's a particular concept from psychologist Karl Groos that could help here. David Graeber describes it well in Bullshit Jobs:
[I]nfants express extraordinary happiness when they first figure out they can cause predictable effects in the world, pretty much regardless of what that effect is or whether it could be construed as having any benefit to them [...] Gross coined the phrase “the pleasure at being the cause,” suggesting that it is the basis for play, which he saw as the exercise of powers simply for the sake of exercising them.
Groos' findings — which have since been confirmed by a century of experimental evidence — suggested maybe there was something simpler behind what Nietzsche called the “will to power.” Children come to understand that they exist, that “they” are the thing which just caused something to happen — the proof of which is the fact that they can make it happen again. Crucially, too, this realization is, from the very beginning, marked with a species of delight that remains the fundamental background of all subsequent human experience.
The pleasure at being the cause might start with knocking over a milk bottle, but as we age, that species of delight is drawn out from other activities. Could blogging be one of those things? You write something and then it appears on the internet for all to read. You are the thing which just caused that to happen. You can make it happen again if you'd like. Or not. The choice is yours. That choice helps one come to realize how they can “exist” on the web. The pleasure at being the cause of a blog.
Groos also found that bad things happen if you take away the ability for one to derive pleasure from being the cause of something. Remove the milk bottle the infant was throwing around and there will bound to be tears and tantrums. Could this be why I felt blue for these past blogless months? I had removed something that gave me agency in the world by the sheer fact that I could write sentences and have them show up for others to see. They didn't exist before, but they do now. The milk bottle wasn't on the floor before, but it is now. How wonderful.