Thursday, May 6, 2010

{book}worm wednesday part 2 :: the road to illiteracy is paved with wikipedia

The green light flickered and stopped blinking. Restarted, re-booted, re-plugged, re-loaded and still the little dot, the constant humming blip of my modem, the porthole that connects me to the world, was closing fast if not completely lost to me already. And immediately, my nerves started to fray. Because there's life in this little black case I think, there's life-- my life.

This slick black case with shiny smooth buttons that hold my fingers like a row of tiny hands, hands that are so obliging, as is this screen that lets me sit without spilling an ounce of energy, save to dip my hand into the M&M jar, it flashes perfect images and caresses my eyes with its endless stream of interests. No question goes unanswered, no curiosity uncovered, no slightly nagging interest denied.

Then I sit and hold a book, any book, but they all have words and no images. And the thing they ask of me is my involvement, the sweat of linear thinking and the work of weaving thoughts together. These book-bound words, they are not the collection of assembled facts like a Wikipedia file, where every other word is highlighted to send you further down the rabbit hole. Those are the compilation, the memorizable shell that can give knowledge but not knowing. These words, from these ink dipped papers with sentences like ribbons spilling over pages, are the streams and rivulets that flow to a river, a thousand rivers converging into that body of deep waters that en-souls the very essence of its author. I cannot get to that soul through Google. I cannot travel those streams and riverbeds with Wikipedia.

If those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, then those who do not read the minds, the souls of times past are in danger of losing their own. The world has always been about the work of passing down human experience. Whether the words were given orally, or in written form, they were given-- as though believing that a people could not live by bread alone- but by words.

Words, words, these fact-fat collections that come through the screen like a cluster of pebbles or a handful of diamonds-- so appealing and tidy, so valuable and convenient. Dump them in your pocket, hide them in your hand, tell the world you have them, but eat them you cannot.

It is the breathed out streams of words that hold the life, the soul; the yeast filled words that ferment and rise with time, that have been beaten and pummeled into smooth and pliable shape, whose bodies, housed in pages and hardbound covers are the bread that feeds us all.

But why bother with all that dietary word trouble when the screen beckons with such accessible regularity? The promise of knowledge without knowing, it assuages my guilt with its gentle massaging of my impatience. And then I sit with my book that is The Book and I wonder why it is difficult to pray. I read the growth Words and the Story that leads the Way and I find it hard to accept the unacceptable: a question left unanswered, a curiosity left concealed, a doubt left to be pondered, a person left unknown. I turn from the speed-of-light-answers in a list of ten thousand Google-leads to a place on my knees, where there is no room for speed.

And nature rings loud with it, this slowness of pace. It's the way of the Real World, the one we're all dodging, with iphones and wireless-- where there's no room for waiting, or seeing things clearly, with back-gazing lenses.

I'm cutting that wire, that tube that feeds my fraying nerves, with its green blinking light and impatience massages. Come books, come Book, come narrow straight path; not paved with an iphone or an Apple Touchpad.

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