I had avoided getting on Quora, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc., keeping my social media presence to a dull roar at Twitter and Facebook. I was pleased with this success. I know how easily I can fall down the rabbit hole and I had a big enough warren as it was.
My nephew, however, is very active on Quora, and he knows me well and from time to time would come across things he thought I'd find interesting, and send them to me. Sooner or later something came up that I really wanted to respond to, and that was it. I signed up, I was hooked.
What is Quora?
According to their website,
Fair enough. So why do I bring it up here?
I do so because it is, in a way, all about writing in its deepest sense—at least, for me. There are endless categories of questions and ways to find specific people or categories of people to answer them, or you just let your question swim out into the waters and see who (if anyone) responds. I'm not much of an asker of questions. Not many pop to mind when I am at the site. But I am very often drawn in to answering.
The first and most satisfying question experience I had was when a spider half-drowned in my shower and when it recovered several hours later, it began performing odd movements. I asked the question,
Why would Pholcus phalangiodes do deep knee bends (see my comment below)?
Then I used the search field that allows you to find specific people to request a response from. I put "arachnologist" in the field, found several, asked them, and got some interesting ideas, though no definitive answer. Quora pointed me to a related question, which had received no answers, so again I requested the help of arachnologists. Between the two questions and the folk who responded I learned a ton about my spider neighbours, connected with some lovely people, really enjoyed myself, and found a satisfactory answer to the question (which turned out to be what I had hypothesized in the first place, so that was cool). The key thing is that the behaviour I was interested in is not mentioned in writeups about this beast, yet within a couple of hours I had contacted people who knew the species well and were able to help me think it through. Citizen science lives!
A second satisfying question I asked was,
How are Irish people reacting to Leo Varadkar's politicals goals?
This was excellent because to be honest I hadn't even heard through Canadian media (though perhaps it was said) that Enda Kenny had stepped down as Taoiseach (Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, whose job Varadkar now has), and the little I found on the internet about Varadkar was pretty cheery and meatless. So it was great to get on the ground responses to his presence in a political scene I can't easily espy from where I live.
Mostly, though, my time on Quora is spent answering questions. Sometimes my answers are off the cuff and meant to be amusing, as well as giving some genuine response. Sometimes I am drawn to think very deeply, take risks in exposing my own vulnerabilities, and work to find the best way I can to transmit my thinking, perhaps to someone who is in a position of fear or depression. That's what I mean about "writing in its deepest sense". I find myself challenged brainwise, heartwise, couragewise, and of course, stylewise. The wrong writing style will kill your message, but the right might carry it home.
I have no idea if any of my answers mean much to anyone, but I think that Quora is helping me to broaden my appreciation of the struggles people are facing, and their hopes and perspectives. I get to talk to people I would normally never encounter. And I get to dig into my foggy brain and do my best for someone, one Quora comment at a time.
Here are a few of my comments, fyi. They aren't perfect, but I think they are slowly improving.
Why is death such a big deal?
After a few months of depression, all of a sudden some questions started popping in my head and have been troubling me a lot. I am wondering why is death such a big deal and why is everyone so afraid of death. No matter how much I try I am not able to convince myself. Please help me understand.
In one way, I’m not afraid of death. Having come close to it I know how easy it is to slip from breathing to not breathing. It is not a terrible thing. BUT.
I am afraid of not living, of not grasping the fullness of being alive because of thoughts and feelings that get in the way and shut me down, because of how my life has gone, because of the world and how I receive it, because of choices I make, and even because of ways my body is.
I know (you can know differently, but this is what I know) that once I die that’s it. Every chance I will ever have to love my life can only happen while I am alive. I get innumerable chances while living, with every moment I find myself in. But once the gig is up, it is up. And I hate to waste my life and all the joy available to me.
I don’t mean the joy of some fantasized union with another person, or some career or other action that will prove my value to myself and the world. I am talking about the joy of really feeling how much I love you when I look into your eyes, and being with you instead of with my suffering, and even being with my suffering instead of being with my running away. I know how alive I can be. I know it has nothing to do with what I have or what I may have or who I am with or what I have done. But the scars of life are deep and I have to fight my way to that place sometimes. I don’t want to give up the struggle with my own despair, but when I am tired or depressed as you are, the urge to shut off can be very strong. I give in more than I wish, which is terribly distressing.
Death is not the problem here. It is missing out on life because of what I regret and what I fear. That is what saddens and frightens me.
Image: Pholcus phalangioides by R.A. Ellis, Im Spinnenland, (1913). Uploaded by User Valérie75 on fr.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons