I don’t really have an agenda.
In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything without one.
Whenever I post a Facebook status, I’m very aware of the 2200+ friends who might see it. It becomes less easy to post flippantly and more pressure to say something that will (hopefully) elicit a laugh or a thoughtful hmm. That’s not to say my Facebook solely consists of witty one-liners or pithy statements worthy to be hung on your fridge (though I’d like to think you’ll find them aplenty). That’s also not to say life is simply all grand, all fun and laughter, all profound and revelatory with life-changing magnitude. I’ve reached a point in life (via God’s relentless breaking… in a good sense) where I’m no longer afraid/ashamed of being honest or vulnerable—I tell people to scour my Facebook profile if they want a condensed and authentic survey of me and my life—but if I were to post daily, even hourly (for let’s face it, said frequency is consequential of the fickleness of human thought and emotion), I would very likely go from 2200 to 220 friends. Although that might naturally solve the issue of pressurised posting without having to bear the guilt of culling my friend list…
Take Twitter. A year ago, I made the conscious decision to transition from a private persona to a public one, transforming it into my official social media face for the professional that is Justin YW Lau. Fewer followers (in the 600s), but wider exposure. I would engage in online discussions about culture (e.g. books, films, music, comics) and creativity (e.g. writing). And after careful deliberation, I decided to stop talking about or mentioning my Christian faith. This wasn’t because I was ashamed of it—by no means! (Cheeky Pauline reference here. Also, those who know me in real life know I cannot not talk about my life in relation to my faith.) My rationale and aim, however, was not to let preconceived notions and stigmas of others get in the way of discourse and appreciation. (I also had a nasty incident last year where I was personally attacked online—particularly my faith—by a Twitter follower I’d never met that left me well shook.) But after a year, I realised this didn’t feel right, not because my interactions were meagre or unfruitful, but because it was personally lacking. Faith is too central to my life not to be spoken about; any discussion without it wasn’t a true and complete (insofar as we can achieve “true and complete” on this earth) representation of my(inner)self. So I’m back to incorporating every aspect of my identity including faith into my Twitter persona. If people don’t want to talk to me because I’m a Christian—and I always try to conduct myself in a manner that allows me, ‘[i]f it is possible, so far as it depends on [me], [to] live peaceably with all’ (Romans 12:18)—that’s ultimately not my fault or responsibility. (A shame as well for it speaks louder of their immaturity and “liberal” (in)tolerance.)
Even past blogs have had specific agendas, or more accurately (and initially), areas of focus. For example, my most recent blog was to document my writing endeavours as I began to seriously pursue my dream of being a writer: I meditated about the writing process (or writing about writing, which my friend, Chris R., says ‘must be cathartic’—indeed) with the occasional post celebrating early publications, even addressing tangential topics like my cultural and linguistic identity (and crises thereof). But as I began to gain an audience and, to a certain degree, acclaim (a highlight was a certain post being read by Booker-nominee Ruth Ozeki; thanks Shaw A.), I found myself decidedly ambitious—and not long after, severely limited. The blog sincerely started as a healthy place to output, process and share; unfortunately, I soon fell into the (understandable) trap of pandering to audiences, which hindered my creative freedom. What used to be a blog with weekly posts written with genuine pleasure ended up defunct.
Don’t even get me started on freelance writing.
Which is why this is an attempt at a more personal, self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness blog. Be prepared for all sorts of topics and themes: what I’m passionate about, what I love, what intrigues or confuses or riles me. And right from the start, I will say that because of how integral and central my faith is to me, you’ll be hearing a lot about it. It’s the one guarantee I can make at the outset: faith will be the common thread interwoven through every musing.
I wasn’t planning on my first blog post to be a rumination on private vs public, personal vs professional, but it makes sense as I begin to navigate and establish a fluid and flexible dynamic. This blog is certainly more personal than professional; yet private-cum-public due to the nature of the platform. I would be deluding myself if I said I didn’t crave an audience, if I didn’t want my words to be heard by many. (In fact, if you want me to reflect upon something—anything!—I’d love to hear from you.)
Yet this is in a way a manifesto to remind myself that the priority of this blog is not primarily to write for others, but to write for myself (clichéd, but doesn’t make it less important).
This introductory post has gone on long enough, but I want to end by saying I started off this post with a half-truth. Yes, I don’t really have an agenda, that is, a specific one. But I do have an overarching general agenda that’s revealed in the blog title: to bring life, not death.
A few months ago, I finally asked myself that fateful question that could make or break writers (the former if the eventual answer is one you can fully advocate and dedicate your life to; the latter if you find no good reason and it leads to the questioning of life and the awakening to the futility of such an endeavour): why do I write?
The answer I reached was precisely this: to bring life, not death. Or: to bless, not curse. Or: to build up, not tear down.
This ties in heavily with my faith, of the responsibility of the gift of words God has given me, of the gift of encouragement to build others up. There’s too much cursing and tearing down, too much death in this world; the last thing we need is more of that. This is my humble attempt to engage with this very world whilst doing the exact opposite. And you’re so welcome to join me on this exploration.
(If you couldn’t care less about this blog, but do like witty one-liners, follow me on Twitter. That’s right, I’m capitalising on this opportunity, this is an unabashed plug.)