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  • Karl Thunemann

Fueled by Unrealistic Expectations

I want too much. Yes, I really do.

I would love to enter enlightenment, of course, but I have been meditating long enough to know that goal—as a stable condition—is probably far out of reach. Well, it may be attainable in the random, evanescent moment—but hardly as a steady state.

This act, craving the unreasonable, has been with me for a long time. For the 16 years I wrote editorials, I longed to write a classic holiday editorial that would leave readers clamoring for a reprint every year. On the order of, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” published by the Baltimore Sun in 1897—acclaimed in Wikipedia to be the most frequently printed editorial of all time. In English, of course.

I knew better than to aim at Christmas. Secular holidays—Thanksgiving, Independence Day—felt more within my grasp. If you have ever written editorials—indeed, if you are even inclined to read them—you will appreciate the difficulty of this problem. The editorial page is printed every day. Perhaps its lowest readership falls on big holidays. What memorable issues can be raised on such days? People want to get out and celebrate the holiday, not read the maunderings of some poor wretch who longs to join them.

Two in my coterie of early readers are leery of my resolve to embrace SEO. One says that she thought I had decided to let my list of readers develop organically.

The sad truth, certainly no exaggeration, is that I cannot remember a single reader exuding, Gee, Karl, what a great [fill in the holiday] editorial! No comments even from my copy editors, who may have been tempted to top these efforts with piquant headlines such as Gibberish Runs Amok. No, they kept up the charade that this really mattered—part of journalistic propriety.

Speaking of tangents, I seem to be running amok, even here. Limiting myself to the realm of this little blog, I ask WHAT IS IT? What is it that you want more of? So I have started a short list. (I started out with a Top Ten, and almost immediately saw it as inflated.)

1. A cadre of loyal readers who have read every entry of the blog, with sufficient recall to hold me accountable for what I have written.

2. A larger body of regular readers, who would include some stellar guest contributors. Some of them would be SO good, they would start their own blogs. We could constitute a tiny network!

3. To seek these additional readers, I would get help with making better use of SEO, now I know what is. What, you don’t know what that is? It stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a Google function that is supposed to give our most likely readers a clue that we bloggers are out there, calling to them. (Since I have added the term to my tiny memory bank, I must be on the road to understanding it.)

And then I decided to make another little list. Let’s call it the realistic list:

1. I already have a closely held group whom I call my coterie of early readers None of them reads everything I write. But they know me well and have been reading my work for years. As a rule, they are not well acquainted with one another. I talk to a pair of them separately, and they essentially say the same thing. They are leery of my resolve to embrace SEO. One says that she thought I had decided to let my list of readers develop organically. I see her point. The other points out that two readers discovered my blog because they were looking for me. Maybe I could nudge the doors of SEO a little bit without throwing myself into its arms.

2. My blog dwells in a tiny realm. I sometimes find this difficult to accept, to express gratitude as I wrap its threadbare shawl around my shoulders. I recall seeing a quote from Carl Jung that even the man who does his work deep in a closet contributes to the whole. I have been unable to authenticate this comment. My own “closet” has a window opening onto the sky, trees, parking lot and other residential buildings. Roomy for a closet, but still modest. Who knows whether the work I do here will make a difference?

3. This blog is just a slice of life, trying to make sense of the world fleeting before me, not the launching of some grand career. It deserves to be marked by sincerity and humility.

I feel as if something remains to be said here, though at presence I have no glimmer of it. May I always have that sense, and may I sometimes honor it with silence.


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