I read an article a couple of weeks ago titled “The Death of Writing—if James Joyce Were Alive Today He’d Be Working for Google.” The idea of the article is that writing has historically been like anthropology—making observations and then interpreting them, synthesizing them into content that the reader can digest and become more informed about the world. However, in our modern world, academia has been replaced by businesses as the gatherers and purveyors of information and ideas. As the title of the article hints at, the author Tom McCarthy states, “If (insert quote about James Joyce)” As for being informed—we are terminally over-informed, with Instagram, social media, cameras everywhere, and viral everything. Nothing happens that the world isn’t instantly aware of.
So does writing matter? Do we really need more voices telling us what’s going on, reporting on the world, shaping our ideas of our environment?
YES! I would argue that we need writers and their work now more than ever, and here are two reasons why.
- We desperately need different viewpoints, spoken articulately. In a world of soundbites, slogans, Tumblr, and emoticons, the written word becomes ever more valuable. Discourse is dying; replaced by insults shouted from the rooftops. Our society needs courageous souls to be voices of reason for all sides of every issue; examples to the masses of how to disagree civilly.
- We’re all living together, alone. While it seems that every detail, down to the food we’re having for lunch or the haircut we just got, is already a matter of public record, we are more isolated and alone now as a society. Social media and corporate communication have given us a million tools to create and maintain the masks we want to wear, the barriers to shut others out. Perhaps it is the writer’s duty to rip those masks off and tear down the walls we are increasingly constructing around ourselves.
We need to pull out the exquisite pains and joys of real, honest-to-goodness, blood-sweat-tears-mud-gravel-and-sunshine life and lay them out for all to see, to feel, to understand. Our function as reporters of happenings, of exteriors, becomes less and less important—others have taken over that role—and our ability to expose the interior becomes increasingly paramount.
We need to find, celebrate, amplify, and join humanity.
We need to shine light in the darkness—or brighter, clearer, cleaner light in the fog.
We need to be the long, loud, crisp clear notes in the cacophony of information overload—singing out truth and true reality in the miasma of hyper(false)reality.
What we have to offer our fellow humans matters now—more than ever!
|Graphic credit: W. Jarosz & M. Zwicker & H. W. Jensen http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wjarosz/publications/jarosz08beam.pdf|