It has been a particularly rough couple of days in the middle of a particularly rough month. Yesterday’s entry, I’m sure, was scattered. I was in a lot of pain and pumped full of painkillers that weren’t doing a very good job of anything other than making me loopy. Today I’m still in pain, but have decided life is there to be lived, so push onward and upward, right? The only way to get better is to continue to stretch and work. No, that’s not some lame “play through the pain” thing that just ends up causing more pain and hardship, but rather a reminder that sometimes physical pains and hardships are only cured by being more active. The damage that I am experiencing calls for just such an approach. I can just be a wussy about pain sometimes.
Today’s prime subject sort of fell into my lap. Sometimes process of association grabs me, which is where my blog titles usually issue – for instance, today, looked at my digital recorder, thought about how it relates to the process of capturing thoughts in general and how humanity has struggled with this through the ages, connected it to a Them Crooked Vultures song I had recently listened to, and there we have it. I’m sure most people’s minds work in the same manner; the human drive is, after all, to recognize patterns. It’s just an interesting process to watch at work.
But that’s only a tangent relation to what I really wanted to explore. According to Wikipedia (and my general memory from various sources), writing began in the Fourth Millennium BC. If my math is correct, that’s roughly 6,000 years ago, and it was driven not primarily by a creative drive, but a need to record complex business transactions. Sure, we have examples of art dating a lot farther back than that, and those did tend to be part of the creative drive, but as for writing, it’s a lot blurrier as to when creativity started to enter the writing picture. I’d guess not for awhile, as most of the people who could write back then were the equivalents of today’s accountants. It seems to be something that is debated even among scholars, but has roughly been dated to the Third Millennium BC, a full thousand years after the invention of writing. I have to admit, my own grasp of the history of writing dating back that far is a little poor, despite being fascinated with the period in question. That’s something I plan to remedy.
Regardless, I’m exploring this because I want to explore why we started to make the transition from storytelling being primarily an oral medium into a written medium. Today it’s rare to find the good oral storyteller, though I suppose there’s an argument to be made for the format coming back to life in the last 20-30 years in audio books. Not sure I can apply a value to which is better; they’re just different, though I have found myself enjoying the audiobook a lot more of late (and to those who accuse audiobook listeners of cheating – which is the older medium, honestly?).
Obviously there are advantages to the written word as a record of storytelling. The story became repeatable, and easier to proliferate in a time when voice recording was impossible. Ideas could be captured at last, our dreams codified and passed not just from person to person, but from generation to generation, becoming something like an equivalent of our deep space probes, only sent down through time instead of through space. That concept is the one that keeps me coming back to the history and the underlying theory of writing itself – I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of communicating with those who went a long time ago, of catching glimpses into their worlds. For now, it seems like the closest thing we have to looking into alien civilizations.
There are times that this idea makes me pause, to consider the future of a world where our worlds are digital and not physical. With format questions, with the now-bleak future of energy production, will our generation’s ideas, dreams, and records be available to those in the distant future? It’s not too hard to imagine a world where energy is scarce and accessing these digital records becomes very difficult. We’re entering a very exciting new paradigm, but it’s also easy to imagine it as the beginning of the end of some very long-held ideas about human modes of communication. You have to go back to the time of Gutenberg (and perhaps even further back than that) to see where our current paradigm originated, and it’s really difficult to know where this will all lead. Did Gutenberg have any idea of where his invention might lead?
Today’s link of the day is The Truth About Lies, a very well-written blog by a guy who says he doesn’t have much to say at the moment (though he says it rather well). If nothing else, it’s worth visiting to help boost the guy’s confidence – he’s a great writer, and I’ve been enjoying his site!
- How To Become A Better (And Future-Friendly) Storyteller (jchutchins.net)
- Interview with Audiobook Lover ~ The Guilded Earlobe (literatehousewife.com)