Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here and Now

My previous post had a particular catalyst, and it might seem like it had overtones of scorn for people of my parent's age, but it was more the opposite: more of an observation that this dichotomy of experiences leads to a sort of critical disconnect. It was brought about by anything but scorn, but from more of an appreciation and an understanding of what my father and other men like him accomplished.

This is because my father just died, and I have been going through his writings, and his friends' writings, and reflecting on the span of his life before and well after I was born.

He went to school in th4 time before television, and decided early on to pursue journalism, the print medium. For the first few decades of his life, it was the primary means for conveying information and entertainment to the widest possible audience.

It was a medium which had definite rules, the rules of style and grammar, and one could learn those rules and be successful.  Who you were, what you knew, was reflected in how you wrote.

Also, in that  time during and just after wars, the nation valued, revolved around, really-- a sort of military style of organization, where clear orders cascaded down in a well understood chain of command. These orders came by mail, and over the phone, and never in computer code.

I want to think about that for a bit. In that time, the sort of literal interpretation and precise execution that people had to demonstrate and practice is the sort of behavior that, today, we rely on getting from computer-based systems.  The sort of blathering that I'm indulging in right now, the stream of consciousness drivel and spew that millions of people mutter into the aether on a more and more constant basis, this is all facilitated by orderly and predictably acting systems that put it where it should go without human intervention, for perusal by any number of thousands or millions (or in the case of this blog, handfuls, a fair percentage of whom are likely bots), that should care to see it.

In my father's time, this did not occur without the care of an author, who then submitted his work to an editor for rigorous revision, styling, layout, proofreading (this is in the rare case that it was solicited and/or not rejected)... all performed by almost literally an army of specialists working to meet a deadline that must be met, in order for the people who then set the type and operated the printing presses to make it happen on time.

 Now, despite the rules and guidelines could be learned and followed, it also required that people who did not _hate_ the way one followed those rules would not be encountered along the way, or the writing would never see the light of day.

The thing I imagine my father found particularly odious about today's think-it-and-post-it culture, was that the dues that had to be paid in order for a writer to reach any audience were dear indeed. The equivalent of "blues dues". You had to prove you loved the written word and cherished the idea of being one of its custodians.  Because, always, that was the highest height you could aspire to and attian, to be a mere custodian: the great ideas already having been written by the masters centuries ago.

And in making this occur, much of the rigor and precision we expect from machines, the majority of which we now delegate to machines, was the sole responsibility of the humans organizing and executing the task.

As usual in this blog, I fail in capturing what I want to say in a coherent and orderly way, because I am undisciplined. Right now, a glut of ideas and impressions about humans rendering service to one another, and in pursuit of that fulfilling themselves and moving to some kind of higher plane rush in, thinking about my father's military service... he actually went so I would not have to, you see. And his father did the same for him, but due to overwhelming odds and conditions, his father did not succeed in it the way my father did. But, on the other hand, he would gently disabuse me of any notion that either of them were seriously considering their unborn progeny at the time. And then, again, that is the whole idea of war: you are doing this awful thing so it will not have to be done again.

But... I'm undisciplined, because my tather's quest was to slow down these impressions and carefully fit them into the schema, template and meter of a standardized, valued and marketable style. Moreover, to have these impressions about whatever thing he might be assigned to write about. And not too many of them! For god's sake, make it follow a line and exit in a way that left that line shimmering in the reader's mind like the wake of a boat on a smooth...

So I sit marveling at my father's life, and his hopes and dreams, and his accomplishments, and his love and his struggle and his infinite care and patience and unbelivable courage and strength.


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