Too many words

25 01 2009

I have been wondering for a number of weeks now, whether to ever write again. I write daily Bible meditations and will continue to do so, but general writing is under question. Blogging is a strange phenomenon and any thinking blogger must at some time reflect on why they write.

My favourite regular commentator was Alistair Cooke and his weekly Letters from America were often insights into history. I particularly remember a piece he wrote on how modern media allowed the fighting in Vietnam to be seen back home within hours, and the effect that had on public opinion. We have advanced in media technology so much since then that it’s a completely different ball game with TV camera crews right on the battle front and us being able to see it at exactly the moment it is happening. Then there are the mobile phones (cell phones) that act as cameras and also have the ability to send the photo immediately to the web so that news appears instantly recorded around the world.

If you look at the stats that accompany WordPress you see the incredible number of us each day who bother to put their thoughts into words. Some are followed by large audiences, but most of us get just a minimal reading. So why do we write? Because we can! But the ease of it, I find, raises issues. How easy is it to launch off on whatever hobby horse we may have. The blog enables us to potentially shout to the world our concerns and, in the case of a site like this, the concerns for truth and the Christian faith.

But truth is an ellusive thing. Several weeks ago two things happened in the news that struck me were particularly good examples of hypocrisy, and our societies are littered with it. As a Christian I went to comment upon it, but as I did I was struck by the shallowness of what I was about to say. To avoid the accusation of shallowness, it was necessary to write reams, covering all different aspects of the two news pieces. After writing for a while I abandoned the project.

A number of times in recent months I how read other blogs about contentious issues. Sometimes there have already been so many comments that it hardly seems worth adding more words that will soon get swept away by even more. But then there was the frustration of the shallowness of thinking that accompanied the original blog (and often many of the comments) and how futile, after a little thought the argument had been.

The writer of the Proverbs in the Bible wrote, “When words are many, sin is not absent,but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov 10:19) He was simply saying that when we speak many words, it gives us greater chance of getting it wrong so sometimes it’s best to say little. He also wrote, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” (Prov 17:27)  The conclusion might be that many of us on the Internet have little knowledge.

Again, a couple of months ago, WordPress highlighted a particular block that excited a lot of comment and, again, I wondered about the truth of what was being said, both by the original writer and the many comment writers. I sat down to write a reason response but after three A4 pages I gave up. Who would bother to read that length of writing. I am aware that when I write Bible meditations, if they are really to say anything, then they need to be a reasonable length and there are very few who are likely to bother with such reading. Indeed I have to confess that I have subscribed to a number of ‘devotional’ daily readings over the months, but after a few days cancelling each of them because of the shallowness of what is being poured out.

The following is a quote I encountered recently: “Reading, and reading proficiency, are declining dramatically in the United States, notes a 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that covered “all kinds of reading,” including reading done online. The decline was especially pronounced among older teens and young adults, and as of 2005, scarcely more than a third of high school seniors read at or above the pro­ficient level.”

Does the Internet, I wonder, promote that, encourage that or simply reflect that?  I seem to remember from my biology classes at school (a long time ago) there is an insect that scoots across the surface of the water in ponds, hardly touching the surface. Sadly, it seems to me, the Internet seems to breed or attract, many of these creatures, or does it just turn every one of us into such a creature by the very nature of its existence?

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