Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 14, 2024

News Write more

Writer and surgeon Atul Gawande offers a thought-provoking perspective on the value of writing in his book, "Better": "An audience is a community. The published word is a declaration of membership in that community and also of a willingness to contribute something meaningful to it. So choose your audience. Write something." ■ Gawande is right on more than just the merits he noted. Committing a thought to writing (when that writing is intended for reading by others) also implicitly requires the author to spend time refining the thoughts and words -- almost nobody generates a perfectly grammatical stream of consciousness. Thus, the act of writing inherently demands that the honest writer attempt to save the audience's time by finding the right words to make the right point. ■ Our species has been around for some 300,000 years, but writing has only been around for some 5,200 of them. That means 98% of the entire history of human life up until the present went entirely without the written word. ■ And the best available data suggests that up until the 1960s, the majority of the world's population was illiterate. The written word existed, but was of little direct use to a majority of humanity until only about six decades ago. ■ It's nearly inconceivable that our species, with our giant, energy-hungry, problem-solving brains, had no real way to reliably store hard knowledge or complex thoughts outside of our fragile memories up until practically yesterday in evolutionary terms, or that a majority of people on Earth weren't able to read or write until about the time astronauts first landed on the Moon. ■ Gawande's admonition seems almost old-fashioned in a time of fast-paced social media, but it's incumbent on us to realize that the gift of shared written language is basically new in historical terms. We've likely uncovered only a scarce amount of the unrealized potential of not just near-universal human literacy but of near-universal ability to instantly transmit our own writing anywhere else on the planet (and even to effortlessly translate what has been written in languages other than our own). It shouldn't go without appreciation.

News Better narratives wanted

Too many children's stories still rely on antiquated stereotypes. If you're writing something that includes narrative filler about princesses changing costumes, perhaps it's time to reconsider priorities.

News Fathers, hug your sons

If you don't contribute to their healthy development early on, they may grow up to espouse complete nonsense about human values with boundless unjustified self-confidence. A truly flabbergasting number of "influencer" types are engaged in little more than thinly-veiled and desperate bids to gain male approval and affection.

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