Electronic communication has given a whole new meaning to the word ephemera. And as writing began in stone and in its current form, secured somehow in the ether of electronic coding, I fear for our children’s children who may be disinherited from the literary traditions of history, not to mention one’s written language itself.
Just where language came from is as mysterious as life itself, if not more mysterious. We are perplexed by the hippopotamus, with its largeness and hunger for tons of grass or whatever is a hippo’s daily bread; but we are perhaps unspeakably bewildered at the thought of a hippo praying before it gorges itself yet again on another ton of turf. The idea of a hippo talking is incongruous with our cognitive habits because we are intellectual snobs in the society of the world’s species.
But wherever language came from, which is probably the same place life came from (read here God Almighty), it is not altogether certain that language will endure, at least as written.
We as a species seem to be either devolving or evolving, I can’t say which. Modern day electronic communication proceeds from the principle that less is more, when, with the medium of language and the written word, the very opposite is true.
Thus we text a smiley emoji to indicate our pleasure at someone’s equally curt compliment about our new haircut. I suppose in such things, more isn’t much needed, but such a habit carries over into heavier moments of one’s life, like birth and death and marriage.
These events are oftentimes acknowledged with the same brevity and inhuman distance as a smiley emoji by a very short text like: “Grandpa past away today.” I speak from experience, because that is how I was informed of the passing away of my own father’s father.
In more formal and human epochs—like two decades ago before text messaging—the notice of a loved one’s passing was usually given in person, with sorrow mitigated by warm affection and moving words, however learned, because these were tempered by an equally warm and affectionate tone; or by telephone call which transported at least the tone.
I say we may be evolving or devolving, and the way we use language is the reason. It may be that man’s thought and expression will become all feeling and all analytics or mathematics, that he will perfectly express all he has to say on his wedding day, for instance, by a kiss and the formula 1+1=1, but somehow that may be a cause for confusion. In words, “The two shall become one” is perfectly intelligible, because the thought, being mystical, is easily conveyed in the mystical medium of words. But in pure feeling or pure number, man is diminished, and his world shrunk like a juicy grape into a dried up raisin.
There’s a vision of the caveman, homo erectus, with his sunken skull and club and hairy back doodling with a rock pencil on the wall of a cave by the light of a Promethean fire. There’s another vision, of modern man hunched over his cellphone thumbing away the words and thoughts and criticisms of his age. The scrawling scratches of the half-wit in the cave have endured tens of thousands of years, and probably will be there tens of thousands more. I doubt this article will last more than a day or two, but will probably end up going down the memory hole.
Come to think of it, man isn’t so much evolving into a superman or devolving into his pre-historic former self but is simply becoming smaller and more insignificant in the precise meaning of the word—man is becoming meaningless because he is meaning less and less in what he writes by the minute.