3. Writing and the Future
Some of our most inconsequential writing is about the future. As a species we have become accustomed to shaping our futures out of fragments of writing, drafting ourselves a patchwork future of to do lists, diary entries, meeting appointments, love letters, agreements, loan documents, websites, instruction manuals, commandments. The texts we surround ourselves with are glimmers of the myriad futures we choose for ourselves or that we will for ourselves; of the futures we reject for ourselves as well. Some are fulfilled, some fall away.
Perhaps, there is one eye of vanity on our desire to document the world around us. As though the world we live in is so very different to that of our grandchildren, or our grandparents. The trees still have leaves. The desire to record, to journalise, to document is surely didactic; ‘I have discovered this and I want you to know’, and failing that, ‘I want future-me to know’. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, through the organ of Sherlock Holmes, describes the brain as follows:
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.”
Instead, and too often, we delegate our memory to others: post-it notes and google. We give ourselves up too easily to pencil and paper, too often without thought, without memory. We have lost touch with a long and lovely oral tradition that stems purely from the memory. As powerful a tool as writing is for development, we are over reliant on it to our detriment if we cease any longer to build a future we can capture in our minds.