The Obsolescence of the Written Word

There is a reason why every time I go to a flea market or yard sale, I buy as many history related books that I can. At the risk of sounding like George Orwell or Ray Bradbury, I am so convinced that one day, in the not so far future, books will be looked upon as archaic and old-fashioned tools of learning that only “old people” use. There will be a day, perhaps in twenty years or so, when I will have to stand in front of a history classroom and explain what a book is and how exactly it works, as every one of my students sit at their desks with a lap top…or will they be called something else by then? The written word is already slipping into obscurity, and it scares me, which is why I am stocking up on books ranging from Ancient Egypt and Rome, to the American Civil War, and finally to areas of the supernatural and unexplained. I just returned from a massive yard sale, and had a field day with the book section, that included these massive coffee-table size books on everything you can imagine.

The top shelf of my closet contains a small library of historical topics, that one day I hope to get a nice book case for. When the rest of the world is downloading books onto a Nook or iPad, I will have the real thing. People may think I am crazy, and that I spend hours of my life scanning these books. While I may be crazy, I hardly ever just sit down and look at these books. I mostly use them for reference, or if I am bored, I will flip through and look at the pictures. What I am doing is saving these for years to come, and when I buy American Heritage sets from the 1960’s, whose information is outdated and biased, it is to preserve what books used to be about and how far we came in later years.

But this quest is not just about stockpiling books, it is to save the written word itself. Nobody knows how to talk any more, which applies to the spoken word as well (I actually stopped having my CCD students read out loud because it was the most atrocious thing I ever heard). Furthermore, our children cannot even concentrate on a book for more than ten minutes because of this. My generation will have lived the first ten-twelve years of our lives before computers became a fixture in every home. We also had to wait longer for iPods, Blackberries, and other handheld electronic instruments. People being born today will not know life without them, though, and when you need to find information, why look through a book when you can type it in in Google? To say this is a bit hypocritical of me, because I do this just as we all do, but at least I will know how to find information in a book if need be. Do kids born today know how to use an index or glossary? Dare I ask if they know how to manipulate a dictionary?

Then comes communication, and once again I am guilty. I must send out and receive a hundred emails a week, regarding this blog, school, work, and just personal notes. Then comes text messaging. I do not average as many as most, but there are days when I am texting all day long, especially during the NHL free agency and trade deadline periods. Of course, with these, grammar goes out the window, but that is okay for people my age and older because [hopefully] we know better, and know that we don’t write/talk like that when it comes time to write a report or letter to someone important. Once again, the children suffer. They grow up talking like “Yo dude u wanna chill 2nite” and “OMG LOL he did wut”. Notice there is no punctuation present, and I only capitalized the first letters of the “sentences” to make myself feel better. When was the last time anyone actually mailed a letter? If it’s someone’s birthday or we want to thank someone, we don’t even have to send cards in the mail, we can send an E-card.

This blog will also one day slip into obsolescence. When I am dead, hopefully many years from now, or if I just lose interest, this blog were merely be taken off-line due to inactivity. All these hundreds of articles and hundreds of hours spent spent toiling on the keyboard will simply be seen by a computer program as trash and deleted, not one word surviving me. There are times when I consider printing out my best articles and interviews, in case this wonderful technology crashes or is hacked. Hundreds of years for now, no one will know who I am. No one will know of what my interests were, that I wrote about on here almost daily. No one will care. But yet other people, from hundreds of years ago, are known and studied, some of which who were not even famous when they lived. We are shown a doorway into their lives, we know what they were thinking, we know who they corresponded with, we can read their letters and journals. Why? Because they wrote it down on paper. Go back even further, into antiquity of thousands of years ago, and we know people’s names and how they lived their lives. It truly is magnificent when you think about it, and nothing but depressing when you realize that it will never be like that again.

The more technology we have at our disposal, designed for our betterment, the more our intelligence is zapped away by mind-numbing gadgets who make us dependent on their existence. Maybe I will start keeping a journal, written on paper, so that a hundred years from now, someone might sit down and see what my life was like in 2011, however dull and ordinary it may seem now. It is up to us, to safeguard as many manuscripts that we can, and try to jot down important occurrences in our daily lives. For some, the inspiration could be for future children and grandchildren. For me, it is to try and save as much history as I possibly can.


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