Friday, April 29, 2011

Seeing the Trees in the Forest

Looking at the forest of words before me, I search the underbrush and thickets to find value for the reader. As the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style emerges from behind corporate sized computer cabinets, filled with all the latest modifications to the mother language, I hesitate to rely on my past experience to find my way through the saplings and poison ivy of this new forest. The language is filled with new species of flora. The needles on the pines are particularly sharper, the rustic colors are becoming more ghastly, and the snarly branches harder to navigate.

There seems to be a pattern of crudeness creeping into our speech that in turn bribes the written language into corruption. There is a hollow ring to sentences that are full of technical terms that in themselves are whole disciplines of science and engineering. Even if we recognize the word and have a vague idea of its meaning, we have no understanding of where the word comes from, the nest it hatched in, or the beast that was borne from its use.

Language now has a chemical corrosiveness and a metallic taste. The floral patterns of pastoral grace have given way to I-beams of corporate desire. Romantic moonlight is replaced with daylight tungsten set at 5400 Kelvin filtered through nylon coming from soft light boxes. Beauty is in the eye of the photo-graphic designer, layering skin and tones to give us optimized good looks. The words that follow to describe and record all of this are ledgers not prose.

We are deceived by acronyms composed of acronyms all designed to further encode our world. The language of our times is fragments into primary particles like with the physicist’s cyclotron. We smash words together, break them apart and text the results with swollen thumbs on tiny broadcasting devices, telling our life’s story minute by minute, second by second. Our poetry rattles like a machine gun. We store words and pictures at such a rate as to fill canyons with diatribe, yesterday’s news, and our ever burp, gulp, or grunt.

Words are a human’s way to communicate thoughts, build on ideas to reach greater enlightenment. I fear by the time a 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is conceived, there’ll be no words, just strings of ones and zeros, pulses of light, as humans stare into light bulbs, dazed and bewildered. We will have succeeded in breaking down our language into its basic elements, but our ability to converse with the spheres lost in a forest of time. We won’t see the beauty of the Milky Way; we will only see pin points of light. When asked to describe the event, we will text OMG 2G2BT IDBI :).

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