“Under the governance of the printing press, discourse in America was different than it is now – generally coherent, serious, and rational”
-Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
The value of the written word has been lost in our postmodern American culture. The complexity of well written prose has given way to “tweets written by twits on Twitter,” as my pastor often says. This history of writing extends back thousands of years and could be used to identify whether a group of people were advancing or not. Now, it has been passed over by television, photography, and social media.
THE VALUE OF WRITING
In the aforementioned book by Neil Postman, the author assaults our celebrity culture and discusses the many negative effects of these new media. Though originally written in 1985, Postman’s arguments are even more relevant in 2022.
He cites how political debates and sermons during the Great Awakening were part of community events and lasted for hours on end. Not only were these great orations based on written speeches, but those who listened were able to sit for up to eight hours and could follow along with deep thinking, complex ideas.
In a culture where we have become accustomed to 30 second TikTok videos and the rapid pace of heavily edited film scenes with camera angles that change every few seconds, the attention span of the average American has been fragmented.
A well-read populace has been replaced with a generation of “influencers” whose very lives are commercials for brands.
THE PERSEVERANCE OF WRITING
I, like many other writers, am a dinosaur. I believe that the written word still has value somewhere – if for no other reason than my outright refusal to bend to social pressures and conform with new media practices. I do not want to be an “influencer” on social media. I do not want a YouTube channel or a podcast.
I believe I could do these things, but I simply do not care to. If writing my ideas and thoughts down puts me in a category with Twain, Spurgeon, Tozer, Whitefield, and Lincoln, then I am in good company.
Of course, I realize that my written words do not match the power and authority of those great men, but my words – and yours as well – equal theirs in value.
The entire idea behind Simmons Opinions was because I believe that I am a truth seeker who is pretty good at doing academic research. I hope that my authenticity and accuracy grant me some credibility, at least to those of you who enjoy what I put forth.
I published two books, The Old Gods of the New Age and Time Capsule (both available on Amazon), because of what the latter title infers – words are important; written words more so than spoken in many instances. Our world history is conserved in books and letters. Our religious texts are written instructions for all of our lives. My words, on a small level, are also preserved in a pair of books. I wanted to publish physical books, because I do not trust electronic media to preserve our words in the same ways. Books are time capsules.
THE SUPERIORITY OF WRITING
Twitter and Facebook eliminate posts and accounts all the time. YouTube is constantly removing content. Digital books and websites are easy to edit. But a hard copy book is not the same. It cannot be breached by a hacker or activist once it is in your hands.
Postman credits telegraphy and photography as the first-generation destructive agents against typography (the written word in print). These media forms eventually merged into television and the downfall of America spiraled into the postmodern chaos that we see today.
I fully agree with his assessment. Books allow for your imagination to do the heavy lifting, and it is exercised like a muscle. Television, film, and now social media and YouTube remove your imagination. The gaps are already filled in. You need to do nothing but sit back and be entertained.
Our forefathers, however, read to be educated about the world. They read for history, mythology, political strategy, economics, and religion. They were able to craft detailed strategies and coping mechanisms that are absolutely gone from our overly medicated “self-help” society, which, ironically, turns to pharmaceuticals and “mindfulness” seminars, and not the “self” at all.
An American who is not well read is ignorant. Christian who is not well read is a fool, because we should know better.
WHY I WRITE
Who can know church history without books? Without Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Trail of Blood, and especially The Holy Bible, there would be no Christianity. Word of mouth only goes so far, and 2 Peter 1:19 tells us that our Bible is “a more sure word of prophecy” than hearing the voice of the Lord God in person.
The Bible. A text. A book. THE Book.
No tv show can do it justice (sorry, The Chosen, you are sub-par). No film can capture God’s word.
But we have access to the “more sure” word as it sits on the shelf. Our imaginations, fueled by the Holy Spirit of God, unlock more mysteries of the universe than any tv show or YouTube video ever could.
The power of the written word is superior. It is long lasting and powerful. It is the very tool by which God speaks to us.
If a typographical medium is good enough for the Creator to use, why would we even bother with these inferior forms of media that exist today in this godless world?
I write because I find it superior to speaking – I am not a great orator by any means. I write because I can check and double check my words before sending them out to the world, and I have the opportunity to edit something that might otherwise have been damaging. I write, because it is so easy to misspeak, and you usually don’t get the opportunity to correct it in real time, especially when emotions are involved. I write because I feel that I can be an effective witness for Christ using this medium, far more than a face-to-face confrontation where all parties involved feel uncomfortable.
I write because I enjoy it. It can be cathartic, while also being potentially useful for others. I get to express myself, preserve my research, and, hopefully, help others through their questions or to elicit new questions based on what I write.
Turn off your tv, get off your phone for a while, and pick up a good book. Expand your attention span so you can be a better listener. Extend your knowledge base so you can be a more well-rounded and better educated citizen. Enhance your understanding and wisdom and share it to others so that we can all improve together.
We can be better parents, children, spouses, financial planners, dieters, conversationalists, and Christians by spending more time reading and less time amusing ourselves to death.