Last year, I found a great deal on books. A used-book dealer had an entire warehouse of books they had intended on doing something with, but they evidently skipped on the warehouse rent. So the owner of the building sold off all the inventory – a buck a book, .50 for a paperback.
This was really a treasure trove for a bibliophile like myself! There was a better selection of books than just about any of the local retailers had, and you could pick up books for a dollar that my local Barnes & Noble was still selling for full price! This deal lasted about 6 months before finally petering out.
I picked up books by the box full, and have winnowed down the read pile. While digging through the treasures there, I remember thinking about all the authors, all the words and ideas, just laying around now, basically for salvage value. Some had obviously been bestsellers, others were old and obscure, but it was a graveyard of dead words.
I was struck by a similar thought today while expanding my blog reading a little bit. Even though the words online have no weight (well, I suppose on some atomic level data does!), how many kajillions of words are strung out across cyberspace, about every conceivable topic known to mankind. And here I am adding more!
And what really becomes of our words? Do they make a difference? I’m starting to wonder if words have any power any more.
When books were a relative rarity due to their expense, and there wasn’t the mass media of today, information as relayed by the written word was probably more valuable. I’m wondering if ideas didn’t have more gravity, since they were harder to communicate.
Compare that to today, in which we are awash in words and ideas, available with the movement of a mouse. And what do we have to show for our fancy book-learnin’?
We largely seem to be making the same mistakes the ancients did, with regards to greed, war, and other human foibles. We are as easily fooled as the most primitive people, it just takes a little more tech to fool us. We pretty much enact the rituals of our tribe, just like we did eons ago- the tribe is just more mobile and comfortable.
I’m interested in the written word’s power to inspire, communicate, and educate. But when words become as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach, do they lose their power?