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‘I have not loved the world, nor the world me’

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POSTED July 13, 2012 8:33 p.m.

Virginia Garrett - my high school English teacher who also happened to live across the alley when I was growing up - stopped me one day on the street.

She was congratulating me on four different statewide awards she heard I just recently received for writing for The Press-Tribune. Among them was an investigation series that exposed a city manager who was triple dipping for monthly expenses as he used a city credit card but also turned in expenses for reimbursement plus had a rather generous monthly stipend for expenses.

Then she added the zinger, “So when are you going to start doing some serious writing such as sonnets?”

Mrs. Garrett loved the richness of the written word. Uncovering malfeasance and writing about it wasn’t serious stuff in her eyes. Creating a written waltz sprinkled with imagery that flowed effortlessly and communicated spirit and emotion to captivate a reader was the real McCoy. Newspaper writing as such was purely pedestrian. She had no quarrel with what I did for a living but noted the venue tended to treat words as a farmer would - efficient and productive. Serious writers labored as if they were working in a Victorian garden. They nurture words in such a manner that they transform efficiency by producing a cascade of colorful blooms and foliage in the end. There was more to life as far as Mrs. Garret was concerned than simply being nourished whether it was food or the written word.

I can’t help but wonder what Mrs. Garrett would think of the state of writing today.

Long, flowing handwritten letters sent to loved ones composed after long thought or whimsical letters to a friend enriched with wording that capture one’s personal observations of life are part of a different era. Today most personal writing is encased in electronic form - e-mails and blogs. That in itself isn’t bad. It’s what we do with the technology that often leaves a lot to be desired.

There seems to be no more angst over what words we select to make a point. No careful thought made to lay out an argument. And rarely does anyone seem to think a second draft, rewrite or such is needed despite the fact it has never been easier to massage what we compose.  The days of having to crumple and toss paper into a pile to start over are long gone. But now that we can make changes and rethink wording with ease before we send the written words we rarely seem to do so.

Keyboard diarrhea is an epidemic that’s weakening the written word. We have equated instantaneous with being a thoughtful reflection.

It is akin to reacting to being stuck with a thorn by a rose bush by lashing out and trimming it back to the ground instead of pausing to remember by nurturing the rose it will bloom into something beautiful.

It is little wonder why anger and a wanton disregard for what words can do to others seems to be the prevalent tone in many electronic forms of personal communication.

Would Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address had been as poignant and memorable had he composed it quickly on a smartphone and then hit the send key instead of brooding and being immersed in thought to find the right words to capture the imagination of those he was addressing.

Some might argue I protest too much.

Glean e-mails and blogs. There’s little chance they will stand the test of time such as Mark Twain’s letters or even the love notes your grandfather penned to your grandmother.

It’s ironic, in a way. Never before have we been able to communicate with so many people, so quickly yet we squander the opportunity to inspire or uplift.

The trend toward flowing uninterrupted conscious thought as communication does little to enrich the written word.

It’s a trend that robs the world of Lord Byron and his ilk.

But no matter how you cut it, the words, “I have not loved the world, nor the world me” creates a much more powerful imagery than what a Lord Byron want-to-be would blog today: “Life sucks.”

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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