Tuesday 24 November 2015

This post is irrelevant

Sometimes I read books that have nothing to do with real life, either because they're fantasy, they're fiction, or they're true but from such ancient history that they can have no real value or meaning to anyone anymore.  After all, we don't live in the time of Austen.  Of Bronte.*  Of Shelley.  Of Ingalls Wilder.  (to name the last four authors I've read, anyway)

My kids will (probably) never have to draw water from the river, or build a log cabin with their hands.  They won't carve arrow tips.  They won't wear extra petticoats for warmth and/or modesty, or play with a pig's bladder for fun because their only other toy is a corn cob.  They won't have to face the dichotomy of getting married or becoming a governess.  They use snail mail only for thank you cards, Christmas cards and letters to Santa.

For that matter, any story written before 1990 has serious issues with its relevance to the life of a modern child.  I mean, why would you ever read a story about people who don't even have cell phones?  How could their experience possibly impact my own?  What relevance does it have?

The greats are great, and important, perhaps just because the stories they told were the first of their kind.  The experiences are completely unlike any that most of us will ever have.  But does that mean they're irrelevant?

Every day, this overpopulated world is full of more imitators and entrepreneurs with more time and more opportunity and better tools and more education.  But these classics still hold up today, awe-inspiringly so, in terms of wit, style, and brilliance, often despite -- or because of -- their simplicity.  These men and women didn't have the luxury of spell-check or a delete key.  Their stories were written by hand, crossed out and written again, without being able to cut and paste that paragraph onto the next page.  They were written, painstakingly, for a reason, to share their unique experiences (or unique take on shared experiences) with others, to caution, to moralize, to celebrate, but to share.  Every great artist could paint and sculpt and keep it to himself.  Every great singer could sing alone in their room.  But my historical authors, every one, were leaving their own mark, whether by letter written, book, or poem, published or not.

Isn't social media just the expansion of this human cry?  Every stupid Facebook post or thoughtless Twitter tweet, every (uh oh:  ignorance about to be exposed) ... um...photo? on snapchat or imgr or whatever-the-kids-are-into-these-days, and yes, every self-important blog post...all of these, every one, are all really just the artist/writer/originator/person, crying out into the darkness in the best way they know how:

I was here.  And I mattered.

* will happily accept pointers on how to get those two little dots on the e using an Alt combo

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