Writing: A Necessity?
What, specifically, is so necessary about writing? What inspired the first cavemen to use an instrument (bone or stick) dipped in the indelible dyes derived from plants to create petroglyphs upon a wall? Why did the ancient Egyptians find it necessary to formulate a process that would create the first papyrus sheets making language a portable commodity? What was it that made Gutenberg want to simplify the printing process so that text could be mass-produced and disseminated to more people? George Farquhar (1678-1703) is attributed with the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In light of this statement, I must ask again, what is so necessary about writing that the need to do so has given rise to the invention of paints and inks, the stylus and pencil and quill, the fountain pen and ballpoint, typewriters and fonts, and finally computers and word-processing? I believe there are two very simple and basic reasons behind this so-called “necessity” of these created inventions – reasons as old as mankind’s innate human nature.
First of all, people desire to communicate – this desire transcended mere touch and hand signals or facial expressions and became language. Not to trivialize and condense the ages of development into a paragraph, but as more complex concepts arose it created the need for more complicated symbols and signs to convey meaning accurately. Human memory being what it is, fallible and ultimately terminal, written language became the vehicle to transport the second, and probably more important factor in the continuing invention of written technology – people want to leave something of themselves to posterity. This may be in the form of a story, a poem, a last will and testament, a suicide note – there has always been something in the notion that if we could only capture those thoughts and transcribe them in such a way that someone else could understand us, then we might still exist in some way.
Today, I sit at my PC transcribing these words via a keyboard. I backspace to delete a letter I typed in error. I can scroll up and down the page, adding, editing, cutting and pasting at ease. I can create a three-page paper as quickly as my fingers can punch the keys – much faster than I could write with pen or pencil – and the finished product will be immaculate. And although I do not fully grasp all the possibilities of this technology I can appreciate the effortlessness with which I can do this assignment compared to the same task in my undergraduate courses. Yet I have not come so far as to dismiss the value of carrying around a pocket notepad and pencil to jot down ideas that may or may not take wing in some future writing project.
At some prehistoric point in time, some man or...