Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kurt's Blurt

I think we're well on our way to being a nation of impatient mind-readers. Don't furrow your brow or make that face (I know 'what face? I wasn't making a face!' Were, too.). You may phrase it more elegantly (I would certainly hope so) but, with apologies to Beckett (not Josh), we're NOT Waiting for Godot but rather hoping the other one shuts up real soon so we can talk.

It's taken me forever to warm to texting on my cell phone. I get hung up on spelling all the words with all the right letters in the proper places with capitalization and punctuation for all. In the wonderful world of one hundred and forty characters, such fastidiousness can make you roadkill with hair on the human highway and more often than I'd like, I've been reminded that he who hesitates is lunch.

I've had follow-up texts as I've been struggling to frame a response to an earlier note. It's hard to count to ten and get a grip on your annoyance while holding a piece of plastic with more computing power than our first three home computers had, put together, while some touch typist is kicking your thumbs.

We're about the same in person to person communications, too. Those Sunday morning public affairs programs the major TV networks used to have so the FCC would cut them a break at license renewal time, have evolved into snarkfests where folks who remind me of terriers in need of Ritalin just yap at one another when they're not shredding some 'guest' like an old chew toy.

We're all rushing to get someplace other than here and once we're there, wherever 'there' is, we're off again. My German wife calls it kein ruhe im arsch and she would know as she's married to one (mit ohren). When you next converse with a real, live person try to listen to the interaction between you, not just to the words but to the silences as well, and you may be surprised at how little of the latter breaks up the stream of the former.

I used to tease acquaintances and associates, disquieted at how rapidly I spoke, that people from my home state of New Jersey couldn't afford a pause to catch our breath or collect our thoughts, because with so many in such a small state, if you stop speaking you won't be heard from again for years. In light of Jersey Shore et al, that may not be such a bad thing anymore.

So now we talk, type and (for the most part) think in shorthand delivered in staccato, acronym and emoticon all masking, while masquerading as, meaning. Instead of technology and our tools helping language and literature to flower as arts and culture flourish we've continued to dumb down and throw majesty and meaning over the side.

I came across a quote from Indianapolis' #1 Son, Kurt Vonnegut that makes me smile and think every time I read it. If it does half as much for you, it's worth the inclusion, "...do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college."
-bill kenny (Class of '74)

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