I had a great time in college. Not in the sense that you might imagine. I didn’t drink. I didn’t party. And I never inhaled. Truth be told, I never put a fatty, as tokes were called in those days, to my lips. My wife Nancy says I spent a lot of time in church.
Fact is, I read a lot of books and enjoyed learning. I know, I know, Gregg’s a square peg in an even squarer hole. I guess that’s true. But given the chance to do things over again, I doubt I’d do it any differently.
For instance, I lived most of my first year as a music major at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. I spent a second year of undergraduate study in philosophy and religion. At Drexel University for years three and four, I majored in social psychology. If I had a minor, it was focusing on future studies, with the amazing Art Shostak. The upshot at my age is a liberal arts-educated bald old guy who’s generally up-to-date.
Take the issue of books, for instance. You probably didn’t know there was an issue, right?
I’ve got maybe 75 boxes of paper-based books sitting on shelves in my home. There were more, before I started getting rid of them. They make up what’s left of a professional library. Twenty-four years a Protestant pastor and easily another six years ramping up to that adds up to someone who used to buy books like an addict buys drugs or alcohol. And you know, people aren’t reading the same anymore. I still spend hundreds of dollars a year on books, but they’re mostly e-books, and they live on my Kindle. There’s the rub.
I think people are into video nowadays, even if the computer, tablet or e-book reader is only showing them scribbled words. “There are no pictures in this,” a work friend recently complained when I handed him a copy of East Jesus, Nevada, my first novel.
“Really?” I wanted to say. Jesus.
So listen, it’s time to wake up, here on The Writers Edge. It’s time to hear the sirens and warning bells, and pay attention to the blinking lights. There are no cuneiform tablets anymore. We’ve learned to spell out our words instead of pressing sharp sticks into clay to make pictures. And nobody uses papyrus rolls, even the Egyptians. And soon–despite arguments from my newspaper editor wife and the gaggle of writers I know or hang out with–the Roman codex, or book as it is better known, will pass away as well.
What we will be left with–and I don’t mean to take anything away from my being an avid reader and writer over the next many years of my life–is digital media, like the streaming video above.
When I was in graduate school, I could read in three different alphabets–the Latin, or English, as it’s more commonly called, a old Greek alphabet and an ancient Hebrew one as well. Have I lost any of that ability? Hell yes. What I didn’t know then–and that’s plenty, trust me–is long gone with much of what little I did know. Will reading totally disappear? Of course not. But ask your average high school or college student about what they’re reading–not counting school books, texts and social media sites–and you’ll see my point.
It’ll take a while before people begin plugging themselves into the Matrix to get the content they think they need or want. But it will happen. That’s my two-cents, and no, I’m not about to pay for that right by using my phone.