The other night I read on page 286 in The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco a conversation between the novice monk Adso and his mentor William, in which William explains that
Often books speak of other books. Often a harmless book is like a seed that will blossom into a dangerous book, or it is the other way around: it is the sweet fruit of a bitter stem. In reading Albert, couldn’t I learn what Thomas might have said? Or in reading Thomas, know what Averroës said?
In other words, books often take quotes or ideas from other books, discuss or even expand on them, sometimes creating heresies from ideas in a harmless book. So Adso realizes:
Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves.
In the light of this reflection, the library [the Aedificium] seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.
While blogs sometimes do and sometimes don’t survive the death of their creators, this reminds me of the blogging community: We reblog or quote from each other, discuss what we’ve quoted or reblogged, and expand on what we’ve read with our own observations and experiences.
Not only do we promote other blogs this way, and also our own blogs through pingbacks which appear on those other blogs, but we join a worldwide conversation.
Sometimes, an author removes a blog. So those quotes on other blogs become all that’s left of it–just as Eusebius, who quoted from other works in his church histories, became the only source of those works when the originals were lost to time.
Our community becomes the World Wide Web version of the library in The Name of the Rose, as our blogs “murmur” to each other long past publication dates.