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Critical Thinking

August 22, 2012

In a quiet corner of the Internet, far from the shrieking harpies that infest news sites and overrun media sites, a long way away from the pornography and fetish sites that are the oceans of the Internet, deep in a peaceful glen, that escapes the searing rush of the main stream, once a week I retreat to this secret garden to collect my thoughts and reflect on what’s affecting me. Occasionally a friendly face appears to give me a smile or drop a cordial word. They invite me round to theirs and I marvel at the goodness and creativity that is hidden in these quiet copses of the Internet. I feel like one of the initiated, the enlightened, privy to the secret beauty of the Internet, which is highlighted by the humanity that shines through so many digitized filters. There is a loveliness that cannot be obscured by pixels or hyperlinks. It is souls laid bare by love, complex and vulnerable, sincere and exquisite. I feel honored to be among their number.
Sometimes, however, I dread these weekly visits. The feeling of expectations squeezes me and the inspiration dries up. I have nothing of equal beauty to offer the friendly faces that generously share their thoughts and lives and creativity with me. My mind is a blank, awash in the petty concerns of daily living, the trivial trials that buffer those moments of life that explain living. I feel like a puddle of water that has remained undisturbed: stagnant. The emptiness of my quiet corner begins to get louder.
“Guests are coming,” my brain cries. “You’d better make something quick. Write a poem, draw something, bake a cake and document the process. You don’t want to disappoint them.”
I sit at the computer and stare at the emptiness. I write without thinking, almost in a trance. Writing just to write. One sentence leads to another. I can hear my inner critic taking notes. She will have a long list of notes.
“Well,” she’ll say, “For starters, the opening was a little weak. No story that takes place in a quiet corner of anywhere is gonna be worth reading. I would maybe tweak that to something like ‘Amidst the bustle of modern life’ or something like that. And then, that first sentence is way too long. It almost stops making sense by the end. Cut it in half. That whole first paragraph needs reworking. You use vocabulary that is off-putting. ‘Copse’? It looks too much like corpse. Think of something else. Thicket? Your ideas are all over the place here too. The Internet is a world is that what you’re trying to say. It’s too vague. Then in the next paragraph you seem to switch voices. You’re a little more casual. Your metaphors are indefensible and esoteric. People don’t like that. They want to read things that make sense. I’m not even going to mention the part with the brain talking. It’s cut. You don’t want people thinking you’ve got a screw loose or something. Also the part where the inner critic interrupts is highly unoriginal. It’s post-modern for the sake of post-modernism and I think that misses the point. Cut it.”
My inner critic is very powerful and I listen to her most of the time. She can be quite shrill at times. I make the cuts that she suggests. I am left with a blank space.
“But I’ve got guests coming,” I say to my critic. “What am I going to do?”
“That’s not my problem,” she says. “I only tell you what you shouldn’t do.”
The time has come for my weekly visit to my quiet corner of the Internet. My inner critic has sounded off but I am determined to put her stifling influence behind me. She has no place here in my secret garden, in my peaceful copse. Shame has no place here. It is a home for naked and beautiful souls. It is a refreshing relief to be here.

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