Greg Braden has a quotation in the front of his book Turning Point that resonates with me.
"We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely." E.O, Wilson (1929-) Evolutionary Biologist
We could say this is true for every generation in some fashion yet now is the first where the sources are so prolific we are at risk of paralysis due to information glut. I am one of those people feeling a bit of that right now.
This week I heard Ammon Shea, on CBC's The Current, talking about his book "Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation".
AMMON SHEA HAS WORKED AS CONSULTING EDITOR OF AMERICAN DICTIONARIES AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, AND AS A READER FOR THE NORTH AMERICAN READING PROGRAM OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY. HE LIVES IN NEW YORK CITY WITH HIS WIFE (A FORMER LEXICOGRAPHER), SON (A POTENTIAL FUTURE LEXICOGRAPHER), AND TWO NON-LEXICAL DOGS.
I read as many books and articles about language and writing as I can fit in. There are so many more out there than I ever imagined!
Shea's knowledge of our evolving English language made me relax about the grammar and usage police who will inevitably critique these aspects of my first novel. He used a term semantic drift to describe what happens to our language as it is changed and reworked over time. We have people who believe they learned the "rules" at one time and they are determined that these are the rules that writers, broadcasters and everyday folk should be following today. He was able to debunk a number of these so- called rules with his knowledge of the history of the English language. Listen to the podcast at http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/06/19/bad-english-ammon-shea-takes-on-language-purists/.
This has led me to want to read his book to learn more about this topic. It will go on the pile of other books that I am hoping will "educate" me. I will continue to try to synthesize what it tells me about language usage for my writing and to choose wisely.
Which leads me to the second information overload I have wandered into this week. I have been given the task of watching out for an eighty eighty year old man who lives on his own in a house that I am responsible for. (Long story) He has the right to live in the house as long as he can care for it. Well he cannot. He lives on Old Age Security and Canada Pension which is about $1600.00 a month. That could get him by if he lived in an apartment or a seniors complex. He won't move and panics if it is suggested to him. He never married and has no relatives that can help. I have learned a lot about what isn't out there to help seniors like him. I wonder how many others are trying to manage without anyone knowing what's going on. I did learn that the businesses that were not getting paid know there has been a problem with his finances for some time. But who do they tell? And he is beyond sorting through the various people he has to call to get an extension on his bills. He is getting too much information and no one person helping him navigate through this maze. He has ended up in a mess not knowing how to get himself out of it. This has led me to be smothered with information about seniors and government that I have to think critically about and to make wise choices for him.
Greg Braden also tells us that we are never going back to the "old days" and if we refuse to move forward through these times we will be stuck grieving for a time that will never return.
That means "girding our loins"(The term gird up your loins means to get ready for work or battle. It is similar to rolling up a person's sleeves. In ancient times people used to wear belts called girdles and to gird up your loins literally meant tuck their garments up into their belt.)
and "diving into the fray" of information. (“Shall we play the coward, then, and leave the hard knocks for our daughters, or shall we throw ourselves into the fray, bare our own shoulders to the blows, and thus bequeath to them a politically liberated womanhood?“ )—Carrie Chapman Catt, The Crisis (delivered September 7, 1916)
These are not simple times!