Picture this –
You wake up one morning. Go out to get the newspaper. Only there is none.
‘Maybe it’s a national holiday or some sort of newspaper strike.’
You march back in and pick up your phone to check if there was a holiday you missed. Only the phone won’t work. It’s powered on, you’ve double checked. It’s been plugged in to charge since last night on your bedside table, so it couldn’t have been low on charge. But yep, it won’t start.
You rush to your desktop/laptop to see if you can google out why your phone won’t work, and WTF! It won’t work either.
You check the TV. Nada. Your Kindle. Nothing. In desperation for a connection to the outside world you try your old phones….nothing! No electronics work.
And then you look outside and find your clueless neighbours venturing out of their homes, looking just as befuddled as you. You head out as well and you talk to them, ‘Is it a power outage?’
‘Doesn’t look like it. Everything mechanical is working, like clocks’.
A neighbour shrieks. It’s the bookworm from the corner house. ‘There’s no writing in my coursebook!’
‘What?!’ You exclaim.
Another terrified neighbour confirms, ‘Yes, there’s no text ANYWHERE. Not in books, not in notebooks, scratch pads. Even my post-it notes are all blank!’
What the heck? No writing anywhere?! You try scribbling something with a neighbour’s pen, and it is erased almost immediately as if an invisible eraser erased it all off. And while you’re worrying over vanishing hand-writing, a police constable huffs down your road on a bicycle and declares in a raspy voice, ‘Citizens, do not panic! The city has lost its writings. Everything right from text, books and even computer codes and history books have been wiped clean. But do not panic. Your government and police are working to resolve the issue. Stay at home and stay calm’.
Only, the problem isn’t confined to only your city. It’s a global phenomenon – the loss of writing. Everything right from ancient scrolls, vedas, holy scriptures to the works of literary masters and the most intricate of computer codes have been wiped out. The world has lost its ability to write.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
If this wasn’t just fiction but the reality of our future, it would be a disaster far bigger than a nuclear holocaust if all ability to write and all of the previously recorded text were to be wiped clean from our memories. Afterall, writing is the crowning glory of human intelligence. Yes, writing, that thing that we take for granted. Because it is writing that has, through ages, helped us evolve into the most superior species on the earth. We have learnt from our past, and recorded things for posterity, for their reference. So many of our daily routines require our ability to write. What if we just couldn’t write?
So this is the writing prompt for this week on the Perfectly Imperfect Bunch Blog – What if all recorded information is destroyed and humanity is only left with what we can tell, not what we can read?
Like fellow blogger Smita has already written in her contribution on the topic, if the world ever did come to that, we would have to rely on word of mouth to spread our knowledge. It’s nothing new, it’s infact the oldest form of transferring information to another person. Only, the words evaporate into the air if they aren’t committed to memory. And memory being the imprecise, unpredictable and mortal thing that it is, this form of imparting knowledge and information is not as foolproof as writing, but at least it does not depend upon any other crutch like writing does. Have you ever come across an illiterate person who will recall stories or conversations exactly the way they occurred years ago? I have a house-help who can not only tell you, word by word, what her father taught her when she was a little kid, but also the ingredients of a recipe that her landlady from her last place of residence, three years back, told her. My own father can rattle off entire poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats, without once needing to refer to text. My boss at the law firm where I used to work could tell us novices not only the exact section and sub-section of the relevant act, but also the page number that we needed to refer to. Such is the power of memory. To some extent, the digitization of text has made our memories weak, because now we don’t need our powers of recall. Now we just press a few buttons.
In my opinion, if the world ever came to a situation as I’ve described above in the scenario, assuming that everything else on the earth is still intact, I’m sure that human ingenuity will find a way to record information. Maybe we will resort to the word of mouth in conjunction with sharpening our memories. Humans are great inventors. We have invented things like the wheel, pottery, writing, language, electricity, the internet, and we are still ceaselessly trying to discover the unknown. I’m sure humans will find a way to improve on our brains in such a way that storing and recalling information becomes as precise a thing as retrieving information from a hard disk.
In conjunction with developing our memories, we will take to recording what we need to conserve through art or music. Even though music too requires writing to a great extent, but then we also have accomplished musicians who have learnt music purely by the ear. Maybe we will develop our skills in art and music in such a way that they become mediums of precise communication and recording history. The latter has been done for ages already, right from the time of cave drawings to the doodles made by our toddlers, and in terms of music, from singing peans to ancient Gods, to ballads on first love.
My point is, if by some great misfortune, humanity loses its skill of writing, we have only to look within ourselves to invent or develop a mode of communication. Have faith in humanity. In our innate need for survival and improvisation, we are invincible.
Copyright ©2018 Pradita Kapahi.
All rights reserved.
Image Source: Kulinetto at Pixabay.