I find myself reflecting on the style of modern communication. The Facebook Post, the tweet, the trending video… I keep thinking about all those historians who get excited to find a pack of letters or the journals of the individual or time period they are trying to research. How will they find similar things from what we write today? Will a closed Facebook account give the same understanding of a person, that personal letters once did?
At some point humans decided to preserve meaning or communications in some way. They put it on stone, which seems permanent but can be subject to wear over time. They put it on Papyrus and then Paper, which needs to be preserved in temperature controlled places if its to last a long time. Now, most of what we write is electronic. Even more, most websites are becoming Facebook like, emphasizing what was written most recently. It can be hard to find an interesting article that was written a year ago, because our communication is about what is trending or what was just posted now.
They say that everything that is on the internet lives forever, but I wonder if that is really true. It seems like information gets buried under the weight of lots of other information, and in that way fades into anonymity. Even more so, if our civilization where to fade like that of Egypt or Rome, where would our documents be? Would the archaeologist of the distant future be able to boot up the old hard drive with the greatest written book of the 21st century, or will that e-book be lost to time?
And does it matter?
Is this change in communication about living in the moment and not getting attached to what is past and passing?
There is something in us that longs to hear the voice of the ancient past, one that speaks of deeper truths. Maybe much of what is written down now, is not necessary to those who come after us. The most deeply stirring communication comes down to us because it stood the test of time. What words will we be passing on to the future generations? Have we lost the means to pass those words on?
The tradition of passing down oral stories was lost when we learned how to write. We are on our way to losing the ability of hand writing. Video seems on its way to becoming so much more important than the written word. Perhaps what we are seeing is just another shift in the way humans share their information. The ones who come from the old ways, are not often clear on how the new ways will work.
And where does one read a deeper tale than upon the most perfectly printed page of the most precious book?
Upon the blank page.
When a royal and gallant pen, in the moment of its highest inspiration, has written down its tale with the rarest ink of all — where, then, may one read a still deeper, sweeter, merrier and more cruel tale than that?
Upon the blank page.
Isak Dinesen, Last Tales
We write words down because we want them to have a life beyond the moment of creation. In a way, we wish something of us to live beyond us. Perhaps no communication was ever meant to be truly permanent. Perhaps all communication is meant to eventually be worn into stardust by the movement of time.
Maybe just as the human soul eventually becomes free from the human body, the soul of words are meant to be free too. To go on to something else… to become part of something else… no longer separated from the greater whole.
If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers.
Does Africa know a song of me?
Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on,
or the children invent a game in which my name is,
or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me,
or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Lauren Torres – Lansing, IL
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