There is but one first cause, and foure second causes of all things. — Sir T. Browne
The problem with modern communication is that it is modern. The problem with modern writing is that it is not poetic. We have come so far; we have digressed three times as much. We have gone from Philemon to texting, from Romans to mass emails. We speak to more people; we converse with fewer. We have gone from this:
Give me leave to wonder that News of this nature should have such heavy Wings, that you should hear so little concerning your dearest Friend, and that I must make that unwilling Repitition to you, Ad portam rigidos calces extendit, that he is Dead and Buried, and by this time no Puny among the mighty Nations of the Dead; for tho he left this World not very many days past, yet every hour you know largely addeth unto that dark Society; and considering the incessant Mortality of Mankind, you cannot conceive there dieth in the whole Earth so few as a thousand an hour.
Hey, girl whats up? lol
We have in a sense made communication so easy that it becomes irrelevant, and since everyone resides in our pockets, and since patience is a lost art, and the need to know the answer to everything so urgent, communication has atrophied. The loss of the graceful art of good letter writing has devolved into quick, pithy statements over phones which merely communicate information or couch feelings in poorly fragmented phrases, often leaving the receiver confused and upset. Today a man can muse to millions his thoughts on life, love and liberty; today that same man can tell no one what he actually believes concerning life, love and liberty. If the goal is to have a thousand friends and even more followers, the goal is also to reduce the personality and eloquence of the individual friends and followers. And one update blends into twenty tweets, and everyone is saying everything, and everyone is saying nothing.
We will continue down this track. The train of technological communication that is inevitably careening through our neighborhoods without asking will only get faster and less personal. If we continue to allow this train to roll through out towns, communication will continue to atrophy; those who listen to what we have to say will increase; what we have to say will decrease. But the problem can be fixed, if ever so slowly.
Now, one can leave social media easily enough. So I will not again address that issue. But what the current and future generations cannot get away from is the horrible monster of the text. Texting is like a drug; your phone vibrates and you are chained — whether you are driving or in the middle of a conversation. Nearly everything in the room takes second place after that sacred vibration. Now, those of us who know better know that this is a great evil. When in conversation with your grandmother, a mere vibration should not interrupt the dialogue. Everyone who came before us seemed to know this, and mere noises would not be the death knell of a conversation. However, texting will not go away, so we need to reform the text.
I have, for the last week or so, experimented in making my texts more poetic. Though communication becomes cheaper, it should invariably become more poetic. We ought to get to the point sooner in our texts, cover more ground and write more eloquently. This is best done in rhyming couplets. Here’s an example conversation via text (and I’ve changed all names for privacy matters):
Reginald, my co-worker (7:27 AM): Are you making the trek to work today? / Or will you sleep and while the day away?
R (7:33): Or are you sick? In which case, please stay home. / Disease can be quite nasty when its hosts are prone to roam.
Me (7:39): I did not think you were even in town / I was out late but will be down
R (7:41): Oh I am here. How could I miss / a calm, quiet morning like this?
Me (7:45): That is so very, very wise of you. / How long are you staying? Till one or two?
R (composed out of order at 7:45): Sleep if you need. / Sin on sleeplessness prefers to feed.
R (7:46): My orientation is from two to five. / Till then I’ll be busy like a bee in a beehive.
Me (7:53): Oh that is fair and a good plan I say / on this, Mr. King’s big day.
Here this example reveals a lot about the fine art of communication. These texts would have never occurred had we not adopted the new policy. Here is what a normal texting conversation between me and my co-worker would have looked like.
R: Hey, coming in today?
Me: Ya, be there shortly.
Clearly, the first conversation is more poetic, humorous, eloquent and, most importantly, revealing. I find we learn best by examples, so here is another. This conversation concerns making plans for a dinner with friends.
Reginald: Gretchen (Reginald’s wife) says she will cook for all, and she doesn’t lie. / What’s on the menu, you ask? Shepherd’s pie. / As to the time (and don’t be late) / we’ll meet here on Houston at six twenty-eight.
Me: I must declare, Gretchen is so nice for cooking. / Is there anything else you would have me bring?
R: One thing to bring, says Gretchen, is corn. / If you don’t, we’ll feel forlorn.
R: Frozen corn is cheap — / no financial leap.
Me: I’ve picked up some corn at the local Hyvee. / The bag is quite cold but not too heavy.
This conversation also portrays the wide range of information one can receive through texts by merely making them more poetic. The usual version would go something like this:
R: Hey guys, dinner will be at 6:28, Gretchen’s cooking.
Me: Great, what can I bring?
But the poetic version adds so much more. Though he may have worried about my hands freezing, my dear friend Reginald would have never even thought about whether the bag of corn was too heavy for me to carry, and my text relieved him of that worry. Furthermore, I felt the dreadful consequence of not bringing corn, and by knowing they’d feel forlorn, I was goaded on to head to the supermarket. Certainly, my rhymes in this second example are very rugged. The beauty of this new mode of texting is that it doesn’t have to be good poetry. As a hobby, I write bad poetry, and this actually helps with that immensely. Rhyming couplets can seem irreverent or sing-songy at times, but part of the joy of sending them is finding the appropriate tone or words to fit the situation.
Since the rhyming couplet does take longer to reply, it serves two purposes. It keeps one from responding too quickly and saying whatever random thing comes into their head, thus creating a sense of anticipation on the other end. The one waiting for a couplet to come back waits with such eagerness but yet does patiently because he knows it will be worth it; it will not be mere information coming from his friend. The solution creates a world of communication in which the pithy, information-driven texts of the modern world are replaced with eloquent and interesting rhyming couplets.