Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Blogging and the Chinese Side of the Moon

Today an old friend came up to me in a local cafe and said, “I follow your blogs and they’re great; I love them! Keep writing!”…She smiled. She made my day.  Little did she know that of late I have been a bit discouraged; as a blogger you never really knows who reads your stuff.  You might as well be playing music on the moon or trying to sell ice at the North Pole.  Then I got to thinking.

Recently the Chinese landed on the dark side of the moon. Why should this obscure place be so fascinating to us, and even more to the Chinese?  Chances are there’s really nothing new up there, perhaps a few more potholes and craters, perhaps a sightly different point of view.  Perhaps the Chinese find it convenient to be up there in virgin territory, doing whatever they want, naked to earthling eyes.

Then I started to think, “Isn’t bogging like the Chinese dark side of the moon? You create in silence and anonymity. You are invisible, so you can basically write anything you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone! Furthermore, if you are lucky, one day you go viral.”

Another thought: perhaps the Chinese landed on the dark side of the moon because it’s in keeping with their ancient poetic tradition. After all, they have centuries of poetry which has gone unread by Western critics; for most, China has been like the dark side of the moon: foreign, distant and seemingly irrelevant. Of course we now know otherwise:  the relatively short poems of the Chinese masters are having a Renaissance both in their native land AND in the West.  These poems are masterpieces and yet how many of their poor authors ever have reaped the benefits of their creations?  Meanwhile, up there in the sky, the dark side of the moon is also having its Renaissance!

A thought: how many “hits” did ancient Chinese poets receive in one given day, week or month?  How did they know who read their poems?  Their “blogs” were much shorter than this one.  For sure they had MORE incomplete sentences.

Yes, creating on the Chinese dark side of the moon is like blogging, twice over!  You write something and send it out on its journey, like spinning a note in a bottle. Few comment on your words and if you are lucky you get “featured” in the ancient Shanghai Gazette for a week; then your concoction recedes into the distance, replaced by a featured blog about the latest Mongolian invasion or a new gunpowder-powered weapon.

But how does the dark part of the moon FEEL?  It must suffer from horrible complexes, being ignored all these years, now suddenly pushed into the limelight like composer Bela Bartok whose works were finally recognized after years of neglect.  The dark side of the moon has been under-published and invisible to those who matter (i.e. Earth’s inhabitants). After miraculously surviving, without warning it now has its moment in the sun (no pun intended). It has been swiftly called into “service”.

But why is the far side of the moon so important to the Chinese?  Is it because of military purposes?  For bravura? Is it their desire to return to an ancient poetic tradition and to inspire young starving Chinese poets to write about the dark side’s loneliness, solitude, and lack of purpose?

The difference between the Western blogger and the dark side of the moon is that he/she is NOT in hiding and doesn’t want to stay anonymous.  He/she wants to be read! But at what price?: hours upon hours of Facebook sharing, used daringly to interfere in people’s lives, interrupting their morning coffee by poking at them, declaring “Please read me, I have something important to say!”.  For sure, the greatest pleasure of blogging is in the doing, but isn’t it also sensing that SOMEONE is out there who may actually be listening?  On the other hand, what’s so great if a blog, stuffed in a floating bottle, bounces on the waves for eternity, never to be read?  It’s like the legendary Golden Record (designed by visionary Carl Sagan and artist Jon Lomberg). This “treasure” is fastened to the inside of Voyager space craft which still is floating out there in space. It’s as though the craft’s sole purpose is being found by some weird extraterrestrial creature who then eats it’s golden cargo for breakfast!

NASA/JPL

Finally, what’s the reality of the aging blogger? Oh, that’s a tough one. There are many ways why he/she is even more like the dark side of the moon: slightly shriveled from age, fading in energies, attracting less attention, but also living in foreign territory.  After all, aging can also be discovery:  the world seems newer and brighter and time, quite slower.

Our moon: one side is fully published, mapped and famous; the other is hidden from public view, mysterious, doomed to eternal night. But hooray! Thanks to technology we will soon be able to take one of those Virgin territory space flights to see what the Chinese have to offer. Is it a glimpse of a new reality? A taste of new exotic foods?  New revelations about death and dying? Or is it about the simple pleasure of being up THERE and knowing that ultimately we are all like notes in a bottle, just waiting to be found?

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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