Please Sir, I Want Some Less


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © 2016 Brent C. Dickerson

          One of the curious developments I've noticed increasing lately on the net is the phenomenon of netizens complaining, whining, moaning, groaning, and generally engaging in short but histrionic lamentations about postings which, in their very decided opinion, are too long. "Tl;dr" has become the slogan—I would say epitaph—of those unfortunates who are subjected not, as one might think, to Macaulayesque essays of a hundred screenfulls of grandiloquent and densely-packed prose in which the numbing monolithic paragraphs barely pause for breath before succeeding one another, mountain vying with mountain in Himalayan obstruction—oh, no!—proudly flying their flapping banners of entitlement, typically they are complaining bitterly about the horror of paragraphs composed of more than two or three sentences, or postings of more than one or two paragraphs; and what's more, they are doing so in tones of the most self-righteous and sanctimonious, as if the sort of curt bulletins which they crave were their natural birthright, denied them only by monstrous simulacra of men, simulacra having no other object than to pollute them, crush them, bury them under the wretched slag of malign prolixity.

          I have a dog—maybe two—in this fight. I enjoy few things more than to step onto the chariot beside the writer-charioteer and to be whisked away by him down the roads, across the fields, nay even into the thick of battle, at his side as he relates the whys and wherefores of the choice of route, the important and curious features of the countryside, the reasons for the pleasure-trip or indeed the warfare—the characteristics of the enemy, the skills, the strategies, the tactics, the necessities and desirabilities, and in short the whole concept and intellectual environment of the experience he is sharing with me. That's how we learn, how we understand, how we expand our minds. And one of the few things I enjoy more than that is to be the writer-charioteer myself, to share with my passenger the joy of seeing, reflecting, experiencing—the joy of living. For indeed writing and reading are acts of sharing, and, ideally, of mutual trust; and the honest exhilaration of giving is no less than the honest gratitude one should be feeling at receiving the rich product of another's thought and effort. Both parties are cheapened by an atmosphere of hostility to generosity; and Society in general ultimately suffers the greatest impoverishment of all.

          "But I have traveled my own route there many times before—chariot shmariot, I have driven, bicycled, walked my way, and know it like the back of my hand—what's the point of being dragged along on some roundabout sightseeing tour from my here to that same there by some lunatic who wouldn't know my shortcuts if they bit him on the nose?" Aye, and that's the whole point: You've grown so accustomed to your route and your shortcuts that they could lead through mines of gold and jewels and, due to your numbing habituation, you wouldn't see anything but the pallid light at the far end of your tunnel betokening your destination. Take the writer's route, be enriched by his experience of the route he has chosen, giving you not only a new way to get from here to there but also some perspective on your customary route. Partaking of the new experience supplied by the writer—and this goes quite as much for the new routes musicians, painters, sculptors, architects, and so on, offer you—refreshes and sophisticates your perceptions while it opens up to you worlds of insight into the human experience as a whole. The efficiency of "hurry up—make it convenient for me—do it my way" is a false efficiency of self-absorption.

          With dwindling attention spans trained and tailored, I suspect, by what they are accustomed to seeing on the little screens of their personal devices, and so by the tweets and texts they are accustomed to receiving from their similarly barren ilk, all these people want as they rush along from nowhere to oblivion is terse bullet points—never mind about details or reasoning, and don't even think of artistry. "Don't detain me with your gifts—be quick about it; and I'll throw it back in your face, and angrily too, if it's not 140 characters or less, because how can anyone have anything worthwhile to say that's longer than that?" Trained and tailored, people are becoming mere appendages to their devices.

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