Can Great Writing Save Humanity?

April 16, 2015

Contemporary conversation:

You: TIMFUL (This is my fucked up life.) 

Me: IKR (I know, right?)

Meanwhile Mark Twain rolls over in his grave…

I’m not the first to decry how our advancements in social communication technology, while bringing about incredible reach and immediacy, has failed to provide us with substantive content. That is to say, we can connect like crazy, but we don’t have squat to say. Our communication is becoming a thin gruel, as bland as two computers conversing.

My fear is that our ultimate destination will be a world of very immediate, very far reaching, very banal communication and thought – a bland planet populated by people living life vicariously through reality shows and celebrity tweets. But, we never travel a straight line forever. Everything happens in cycles. Maybe the world won’t fulfill the prophecy of the movie, “Idiocracy.” 

Perhaps plucking a few of the things from our past and plugging them into our hurtling present could transport us to a better future. Hmm…

When I was growing up I had an unselfconscious love of words and clever turns of phrase. I read voraciously, and incorporated much of what I found delightful in written word, into my own writing and speech patterns. Needless to say, this made me an outcast among the other kids. They locked me out of the socialization party with strange looks and muttered admonishments, “You talk funny.” (And not “funny, haha,” buddy.) 

I’d like to say that their rejection brought out a strength in me that allowed me to soldier on and find my own path; but alas I took the coward’s path. To fit in, I simplified my speech and thought patterns and learned to walk with the herd; all the while living in rich and mystic realms only in my head. 

The result for me was a life of pale expectations and self destructive methods of escapism. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve tired of stumbling in my clumsy attempts to stay in lockstep with cultural movements that don’t quite fit my needs. I’m connecting with more people like me – writers. I feel such joy to be able to communicate and think with a richness that can only exist in a nutritious soup of vocabulary and discernment of nuance. 

And though my writing is far from “great,” as it improves, so does my mind. In reaching out to fellow writers, sharing literary food for thought, I am rediscovering critical and independent thinking. 

It occurs to me that great reading and writing could save the world from a social media-driven “Idiocracy.” Don’t get me wrong, this technologically-driven social media movement has great potential; but, only if we relegate it to the position of “tool” – and not “outcome.” 

Writers and readers unite! Let’s flood the social media sphere with literacy and critical thoughts. Let’s use social media like Archimede’s lever – and move the world. 

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15 Responses to “Can Great Writing Save Humanity?”

  1. Bravo, my friend! I applaud your dialogue here. Indeed, this “selfie,” look-at-me, I-have-nothing-to-say downward spiral needs to cease. Maybe, if all of the writers and dabblers in ink band together we can ration some lush lines and light a match to get the fire burning in others again. Create and Inspire!

    “…communication is becoming a thin gruel,” this was excellent!

  2. Elle said

    “Our communication is becoming a thin gruel, as bland as two computers conversing.” such a quotable line. very astute assessments here and a great call for introspection to make us aware of our motives and comport.

    I completely identified with what you went through, I also have “dumbed down” my speech and hidden my quirks in the past in hopes to fit in. of course now, like you, I’ve learned to embrace my quirks, art, and intellect, and I love finding my tribe (you included!) with whom I can be myself.
    Google Zadie Smith “Speaking in Tongues” it’s one of the most brilliant essays I’ve read. It speaks to this very thing. I’m positive you’ll love it.

    • DeRicki Johnson said

      Thank you, Elle. Your encouragement and feedback are important to me.
      I’m glad to find I’m not the only one who has felt the peer “pressure wave” created by the dumbing down of America! ๐Ÿ˜

      I’ve put Zadie Smith’s “Speaking in Tongues” on my reading list. But, to be honest, I’m struggling to avoid being overwhelmed after metaphorically “sticking my toes into social media waters.” Just investigating the authors in Jason and your recommendations threatens to overwhelm me.

      How do you make sense of it all? How do you decide where to budget your time? (These questions are sort of rhetorical…er, that is unless you really have an answer to any of them.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Elle said

        I DO have an answer, we are flailing!! Not the answer you wanted huh? I know. we’ve been so overwhelmed lately with the beauty of art, and drown in its inexhaustible well. Sleep has become an indecipherable term as of late lol. This isn’t out typical though. Poetry month has compelled us to delve amd share in a concentrated form that we normally wouldn’t. I am they typical mentally lethargic artist (much like Nicholas Cage’s character in the movie Adaptation. if you haven’t seen it you must!) I shy from commitments because I know I am easily overwhelmed socially and creatively. I crave the richness of people (like yourself) and connections, as well as all manner of arts, culture, and literature, so for me, the only way to survive it all is constant bouts of sequester. I cherish my hiding. I will disappear from the world for days or weeks or even months some times.

        Jason and I also have to (for the sake of sanity) detach from the creative realm at times by indulging in guilty pleasures (out most recent is a delicious little show on Hulu that feels like a book played out on screen. the characters are highly developed and there is actual narration.) like movies or tv to just let the brain come down for a bit from lofty thought.

        if you could see us right now (especially having a one year old baby to care for between it all) we are a mess haha. we were just talking last night about needing to rein it in and get some real structure and order to our free spirit artistic lives.

        we’ve decided to list a few things to accomplish or research or whatever, for a given day and stick to that. We’re doing it today and it makes a tremendous difference.

        sometimes I’ll dedicate a day to one thing only, like replying to people. I’m bad about that because I have so much going on, and even when I don’t have anything going on I’m off somewhere wrapped in mild depression (I’m a writer, it’s a prerequisite lol) other times I’ll give the while day to drawing and do no reading or writing, and other times I’ll choose a mix of projects but not too many for the day.

        find what suits your personality and incorporate that so that you don’t become overwhelmed. remember though, we all are. even the ones who make it look effortless!

        I’m so glad to have you and others like you in my tribe of like minds. we really need to develop a forum to network us all. I’ll add that to tomorrow’s to do list ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • DeRicki Johnson said

        ๐Ÿ˜†Thanks for letting know I am not alone! BTW – Love Adaptation…so wonderfully weird. And, what’s your Hulu poison?

      • DeRicki Johnson said

        PS – The forum is a great idea. There are many forums, but the really meaningful aspect of creating another is that it is a way of defining our tribe… ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ

      • Elle said

        exactly, defining our tribe. keeping it in small enough to remain intimate and accessible. all that good stuff. but with all the projects we have going no, and managing every day life, might be a while before we can assemble… we’ll get there. until then, we have this venue ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Elle said

    p.s. the name of the show i mentioned is The Slap. Not like you need yet another thing to add to you list of things to look into haha sorry!

    • DeRicki Johnson said

      Too late. I already watched the first episode. It’s on my favorites list. I watch Hulu while I read and eat – failing to any of the three things well…๐Ÿ˜

      • Elle said

        oh you had already seen ep 1? cool! great mines are drawn to the same things haha. Hey even in our guilty pleasuring we gotta keep some level of artistic class about it!!

        We love the show! Too bad you don’t live closer.. we could get snacks and watch it together, all of us. Would be awesome.

      • DeRicki Johnson said

        You guys seem like New Yorkers – a place I love visiting btw, but my dream is to eventually move back to Wenatchee, a small agri/tech community in an idyllic valley on the Columbia river in WA. Maybe we will meet face-to-face one day. I’d like that very much. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Elle said

        Spot on for 1/2 of our duo ๐Ÿ™‚ Jason was born and raised in Manhattan. I, a small rural town called Berrien Springs, Michigan. Known really only because Mohammed Ali has a huge property there as his off the grid space. We both have a city energy but more of a rural mentality.

        yes, we definitely have to meet some day. perhaps in the Fall when the colors turn poetic!

  4. And the word was set free upon the world. It is our duty to shine a light upon the ignorqnce. We are the battlefield! Our weapon of choice, is our word. Write on!

  5. Thanks for reaching out. People respond when there’s something to respond toโ€”here you go. I like your writing. It’s rich, fecund, engaging. I’m glad our paths crossed.

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