Unoriginal Thoughts About The Death of Writing and the Impoverishment of Conversation

I think it's fair to say that the art of language is dying. We have replaced writing with instantaneous electronic communication and television. With Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and texting, what need have we for the written word anymore? And our habits with respect to books? I don't think I'm alone in thinking that there are fewer and fewer novels that we read, and even fewer written these days that are worth reading. Those new novels that are worth reading tell the same mundane story about the meaninglessness of modern life. This is largely because our culture has changed almost completely from a culture of the written word to a culture of frenetic images driven by the television, the radio, and the iGadgets. This is a deep problem with consequences that are becoming more corrosive (and so more and more apparent) as time progresses.

Human beings are social creatures that need communities, small and large. Communities are bound together by common creeds, or common beliefs. Beliefs are expressed in ideas and concepts, and the fundamental building blocks of these things are words. So one foundation of all true community life is language.

Our capacity for language is a function of our culture. We can be better or worse at communicating with one another. If words become increasingly subjectivized,that is, what each person means by a particular word is more and more idiosyncratic, we are less able to understand one another. And so we perceive rightly that we have less and less in common with our fellows. The decline of language, understood in this sense, is a social disease. It slowly makes our relations more and more incoherent, and as we become more and more incoherent, we become disorganized and isolated.

All of this is incentive to practice the arts of language: Writing, reading, and speaking. I'm not sure there's a social prescription for encouraging this practice. We could emphasize reading more seriously in our public schools, but this is only possible with the support of mothers and fathers. We can turn the TV off, but again, we can make no laws to this effect, nor should we want to. So I don't know what to do but to bring this to the attention of others - first to see if any agrees with me - and second to encourage others in the fine arts of conversation, writing, and reading.

I note in passing that this is also a limited justification of blogging. I think blogging can be helpful to the end of improving one's writing skills. But a helpful blog can only be publicly oriented; it cannot be merely a diary. It must be an attempt to explain to other persons ideas that can be held in common. I've never been a big writer, and I've never needed to be one. I've never had to write someone a letter because email has been a part of my life from a very young age. But this forum lets me practice writing and explaining myself to others. Even if no one really reads it.

Now, to more pressing things. My furnace just stopped working and tomorrow is supposed to be the coldest day of the year.

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