Sunday, October 18, 2015
In the spirit of the season, last week on that special day on which we traditionally consume copious amounts of turkey (well, tofurky for us vegans), I wanted to publicly display my gratitude…in other words, “give thanks.” As my friends and family are scattered both near and far, it seemed to me that the most obvious way to reach such a dispersed group would be by taking advantage of one of the ever-populating social networking sites, like Facebook.
So there I was composing an epic speech acknowledging that I was appreciative of everything from my man to my cats to the food in my fridge, and just as I went to post it as my status, a nasty little pop-up window appeared informing me that apparently I’m too thankful as I had overshot the character count by some hundred words. Left with no choice, I revised and edited, rephrased and rewrote. By the time I was finally able to post my acclamation, I worried it had both lost its essence and further that people would begin to believe that I was ill-acquainted with the laws of syntax and how they apply to the English language (ie: I had to remove all apostrophes and other proper grammatical markers, as well as use the digital form for all numeric references even if they were below the number ten just to make it fit).
Luckily, my loved ones understood – they’ve always known me to be a verbose creature – but this whole ordeal got me ruminating and I came to the following conclusion (as posted on my wall directly below my FB status, and yes I’m quoting myself): “I suppose it’s a rather sad reflection on modern society if most people CAN compile their complex thoughts into such restrictive word limits OR that further most people WON’T devote time to reading something that exceeds said word limits.”
Now the ironic part about my conception of this conviction is that throughout my highschool academic career (something to which my mom can contest), anytime I could get my hands on Cliffs Notes instead of actually delving into real literature, I would jump on the opportunity; the only exceptions being for works of my lovers from beyond the grave Billy S. and the man who told tales of all-telling hearts (I know, further ironic – these are two authors that most highschoolers can’t stand or understand for that matter.). All of this changed however when I hit college…
Perhaps it was a lack of maturity or just a god awful selection of texts (ie: “Death of a Salesman” anyone?!) or a combination of the two, but I truly didn’t begin to appreciate the written word as a “page turner” (thought I’ve always enjoyed writing) until I embarked on my six year post-secondary stint. But my love for books didn’t originate as a consequence of crime fiction, romances, or poetry (though those are all wicked genres). No, it was the textbook, specifically those of the Social Science variety, and later the autobiography that made me re-think my firmly established hatred of literary scholarship.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for starters, it seems to me that it is a rare person indeed who spends their evenings inside simply cuddled up with good books anymore. Oh, we can devote countless hours of watching reality tv shows or worst viral videos, but to appreciate literature or transcribed life stories, well clearly that’s not as worthy of a time investment (note the sarcasm).
Secondly, even when we read, because we have become so ingrained with a “live fast” mentality AND because so much of the information that we now access is electronic in nature, we tend to skim over a lot necessary detail which results in frequent miscommunications (ie: I’m sure all of you have been in a texting war with someone due to misinterpretation of what was being expressed).
While it’s just speculation at the moment, I recently heard that physical book publishing is increasingly going out of style because of the upsurge of handheld device ownership and internet usage in the classroom. In its place, it’s been suggested that the books of the future will be purely electronic in nature, complete with hypertext systems that allow for easy navigation from section to section.
I don’t know about you, but staring at a computer screen for hours on end personally makes me dizzy. Further, I think it’s a fair statement to suggest that intangible works of art (whether mp3s separated from their albums and their artwork or jpeg renderings of da Vinci’s finest) aren’t as valued. Does this mean that the future of Romeo & Juliet is looking even more grim? I certainly hope not!
The truth of the matter is this: you read more and you read more deeply when you have to caress a book’s physicality, just like you appreciate a marvel of nature more in person than in history books. For your own sake as well as the sake of the amazing array of fine literature and philosophical thought we’ve developed throughout the ages, learn to appreciate the art of reading, and no 140 character word-limit tweets don’t count.