Sentimental Notes After the 3Quarks Birthday Bash

I’ve been contributing to 3Quarksdaily for quite a few months now. Abbas in his characteristic generosity calls me and the other contributors “Editors,” even though we are no such thing. What we are, we’re horrible slackers that Abbas has magically transformed into a group of regular online writers, whipping us into shape to the extent that we even – very occasionally – meet our minimum weekly posting requirements. The truth is that everybody knows that 3Quarks wouldn’t exist without Abbas’ tireless work, and I’m grateful to him for providing a space where I can develop some of my ideas.

From the beginning, there was something different about 3Quarks. It had an all encompassing approach that I had seen done seriously on very few web logs and online ventures. It was classy – if you can use that word for a blog – and intellectually voracious, unabashedly so. If you go back and look at Abbas’ first entries on 3Quarks, you’ll find material on boxing, poetry, Arabic art, and, of course, science.

I guess ultimately web logs are pretty transient fare, up for a moment, then gone, the medium itself a sort of vast Index or infinite series of footnotes to a gargantuan book, the Internet, which is being written by a hundred million different authors, some of it classic, and some of it total crap. Or perhaps blogs are more like tourist guides to a foreign country – try this, try that, this is interesting. Look in on these people, they’re all right. I bet if Borges was alive today he would write a great short story about a group of bloggers who set out to post one link for every human occurrence, recruiting more and more people into their gigantic cause until hundreds of millions worldwide are spending all of their time blogging the details of their immediate surroundings. But as a result, nobody has time to talk, interact, or do anything. In the end, the original purpose of blogging would be gone because there would be no more actual events taking place.

It became clear early on that Abbas wanted to do more than provide interesting links. I think it was his heartfelt and saddening piece of writing about returning home to Karachi, back last November, that was the first indication he wanted 3Quarks to become a place for original writing as well. And now, I think the original writing that appears on the site every Monday is one of the most exciting features, a much anticipated weekly excursion for me, whether it’s Abbas writing about intriguing math problems or Nabokov, Robin’s great political analysis, the ad hoc art manifestoes put up by Morgan and Timothy, or 3QD’s newer columnists (samples await you, reader, just below).

Anyway, all I really want to say, besides, thank you, Abbas, is that to me 3Quarks represents the best thing the web can be: a kind of electronic campfire to gather round, tell stories, dispute ideas, and connect with new people. E. M. Forster once said that the purpose of life could be summarized by the words “Only connect.” 3Quarks has become a lively and welcoming place to do that.