last week our readings for Professional Writing Theory included two chapters from a book called Lines: A Brief History. I fell in love with this book, and I want to read the whole thing, even if at the expense of the Hugh Blair and Adam Smith and all the other reading.
Lines seems to be about everything--my favourite topic. there is a section asking why musical notation and alphabetic writing are considered so differently. there are chapters on weaving vs. knitting vs. embroidery. there are illustrations of all sorts, mapping traces and threads. the connections are intoxicating.
last month my podcast-listening included a Radiolab episode called In the Dust of this Planet. it's about a book with the same title, plus a subtitle: Horror of Philosophy Volume 1. its author says something during this podcast that I come back to every now and then. he's talking about his writing process and how he came to finish this book. in the middle of all the research and work, he thought to himself, would I write this book even if no other human being in the world was ever going to read it? his answer was yes.
can I say the same about things I write?
I think so.
I think I am enough of an audience for myself. but then again, maybe my future self counts as separate human being. does that change the question? if no human being, not even my future self, were allowed to go back and read all the writing I'm scraping out of my head onto paper or screen, would I keep writing?
that's not so easy to answer. writing and reading aren't very separable activities anyway. but if they were... and if I weren't only disallowed but also wholly unable to go back and re-read... if all the lines and traces of my own writing forever disappeared into some irretrievable somewhere else...
if that were the case, would it be so for everyone else? would the function of writing be permanently altered for all of humanity? would we revert to a primarily oral culture, or would we develop some alternative system of recording ideas?
there are a dozen ways to imagine this kind of scenario. what if we all forgot how to read, and the alphabet became a string of curly artistic shapes with no definable meanings? what if there was no such thing as ink or graphite or paint or any other way of making lines on things? what if our hands weren't shaped right for holding pens or stroking keys? what if textless, animated gifs become the one and only medium of communication anyone ever uses?
would I write this even if no human being in the world was ever going to read it?
if a tree falls, or a bird sings, or a kitten meows, in a forest or a cage or a box far far away from any observers... do those things have reasons for existing at all?
this thoughtful little post on change and sadness was written a long time ago. I've blogged every week since then, pretty much. I've been blogging every week since forever. there is a chain (a line, a thread) of checkmarks six years long or more fluttering along behind this silly little blog's march into the future.
but people say blogging is dead.
this one isn't. this internet space is not an irretrievable elsewhere. not yet. my future self, and all your future selves, can keep coming back to my silly little blog.
does that mean it, along with the trees and birds and kittens, has a reason for existing at all?