In a time of social sharing, literature is just an older form. While many still gather in rooms and discuss lines of prose, and the history those lines represents, what it means to them, share their excitement over the skill and imagination, many are turning towards different lines of study.
A recent opinion piece in the New York Times implores readers to Not Turn Away From The Art of Life. In this article, the author begins by quoting the poet Arthur Rimbaud; ““‘Je’ est un autre” (“‘I’ is someone else”).”
We live in a time of excessive hobbies. What do people do with those hobbies? They share their progress on social media. We track our lives through pictures shared, time spent moving (data easily collected by our Fitbits), and meals shared with friends (posted to Facebook, of course).
We like evidence. We like to share that evidence. Compare and contrast. However, when it comes to our actual lives, we’re being told that the future lies in STEM. It does, to a certain extent. With its “specific truths” the world is made clearer, more neat.
The author of the NY Times piece posits that literature is a measure of us. Where science tells us how we came to be, why we have opposable thumbs, art tells us about ourselves – “the human record that is available to us in libraries and museums and theaters and, yes, online.”
People who read know that there is a line, or a word, or a whole story that “gets us”. Someone else has imagined it, managed to make it something we can hold. That is a record of us, spectacularly enough.
The art of sharing is not lost. Nor is the art of connecting. We just do it differently.
When something big happens in the world we start Twitter chats, we send emoticons over Facebook. We are still connecting to what we read and see.
The feeling of standing alongside someone else as they’ve been wronged, or experience joy. The feeling of “This is mine, too”; or similarly, “It could have been me” keeps us sharing on social media and, likewise (as the author of the NY times articles suggests), is the reason that many still connect to art and literature.
So perhaps, our modern technology and the arts are not so divided.
The trick, now, is in teaching there is still value in the old ways, because it really tears our hearts apart when someone tells us they “don’t really read” (*shudders in physical pain*).