The Written Word: Is Writing on its Way Out?
"I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means."
- A handwritten letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
With Christians and others celebrating Christmas last week, there were a lot of news stories about religion and what it means to Americans today.
One contemporary Bible story grabbed our attention, but not because of religion at all.
The Bible Across America tour is a cross-country RV tour in honor of the 30th anniversary of the New International Version of the Bible. The vehicle stops at churches, universities and special events where individuals are invited to contribute a verse to complete a handwritten Bible.
The tour stopped in Denver in November; it's currently wrapping around Texas.
It's an exercise in faith. And it made us nostalgic, but not for the times when the educated classes were so extremely limited by the fact that religious texts and other lessons were laboriously done by hand.
How many holiday cards did you get this year? Was there a smudge of ink on all of them? It seems with each passing year, the popularity of photo cards and even e-mail holiday greetings increases. A lot of folks don't even sign the photos anymore -- many more are opting for address services that don't require them to write on the envelopes, either.
We miss the loopy penmanship of our grandmothers, the letters from relatives who could be recognized by their handwriting alone (the chicken-scratch from engineers and doctors; the heart-dotted i's from tweens).
But we're nostalgic for other reasons as well. Our hard-drives are filling up with photographs and home videos, and our social networking sites allow for more contact with acquaintances than ever before. But our tweets and status updates aren't lovingly saved in shoeboxes for our descendants; we're gaining information and losing words all at once.
Founding father John Adams and his intellectual wife Abigail exchanged more than 1,000 love letters during their relationship -- courtship through marriage. Each of the letters became a cherished keepsake within the Adams family, and later, a treasure trove for all Americans, who find within the exquisite declarations of love significant details about the American Revolution and the founding of the United States.
Throughout recorded history, there have been the official records -- you're holding onto one, or reading it online -- but the nooks and crannies that exist in the official record's gap have been filled by personal correspondence and journals.
Will this be lost in the future? Are the important leaders of our time writing anything down, and if not, prithee, are they at least archiving all those texts flying to-and-fro between their loved ones?
© 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co.