I am a lover of the written word. I believe that, as Sven Birkerts warns in The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, we are losing a large part of our culture and our heritage to all forms of New Media. The sacred act of reading has been undermined. Birkerts writes, "the world we have known, the world of our myths and references and shared assumptions, is being changed by a powerful, if often intangible, set of forces. . . . What is at issue is not diction, not syntax, but everything that diction and syntax serve. Which is to say, an entire system of beliefs, values, and cultural aspirations." I must say, that I agree with Birkerts wholeheartedly. As a society, we have lost the dedication to slow ourselves down enough "to concentrate on prose of any density." And, not only prose, but any of the Great Works.
I'm in three different English classes this semester, meaning that I have very little time to continue with my own personal reading or writing for enjoyment. My favorite class is my Twentieth Century Poetry class. In this class, I have learned that I do not pay near enough attention to the details presented by a poet. I really have to force myself to concentrate, to focus, and to decipher what is being said. I must take into account the poet, his life story, the time frame he lived in, changes he experienced, what time the actual poem was written, and what historical factors were working on it. I have also learned that I do not have a strong enough knowledge of any major mythical figures. Perhaps, if I had payed more attention in previous years, this knowledge would be part of me, living and breathing within my very bones.
Although I greatly fear that within the next thirty years hard cover and paper back books might be all but forgotten, I am very well aware of the fact that reading literature, serious literature, is an important aspect of my life that I will never forget. And, it is a tradition that I will pass on to my own children, not simply for nostalgic purposes. Reading is essential because it develops a person's very ability to reason, and think logically about any specific situation. The act of writing, and writing coherently so that another human being will be able to follow a logical train of thought, is one of the most difficult tasks to overcome. But, it is necessary.