Straight up

November 20, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Apparently, sales of booze have increased by 30 percent – or is it more? Quite a helpful return of tax money to the province’s government’s badly beaten coffers. Still, it could be a slightly worrying indication of how we’re handling the boredom, as we are frequently warned to stay home and watch stuff online until our eyes are blurred and our brains are overwhelmed with the on line clutter, at best, and the unending bad news, at worst. 

YouTube crashed earlier last week, so I heard. It was regarded as truly astonishing news, as if it were an impossibility that this online mega-thing could itself be overwhelmed by the burden of boredom seeking to amuse and, perhaps, even seek fame and fortune. After all, that’s what how it was for Justin Bieber – his mama put him on YouTube when he was 12 years old and a star was born. Could happen again – you never know.

Plus – all those well meaning people with their advice and their instructions on how to stay fit, mentally and physically, filling the wires and I don’t know what all else, except YouTube crashed and it was big news. 

More to the point, what if, as I have predicted, the internet itself implodes under the sheer weight of use because where would we be without it, in spite of its newness to the world? We are being weaned off reading – just sitting in a quiet, cozy corner reading – and goodness knows there are plenty of books out there, I am happy to report: well, a great many books that reflect what contributed to bringing down YouTube: how to cope books; “How I coped” books too – lots of protest books – both as fiction and non fiction. Listening to the CBC book reviewer, Sheila Rogers, and her interesting interviews with newly published authors, there are plenty of new books, dealing with the dark side of our world, abuse, racial tension and much more. All very worthy.

Still, a person said to me recently, “We don’t have patience for non-contemporary English nowadays” and she made me really sad with the remark because it means we’re selling ourselves out.

We were talking about great literature, Charles Dickens, specifically, with his intricate, run on sentences, his spinning of images – and great stories, filled with characters that one never forgets and that, even today, are reference points.

It seems that teachers are backing off from the hard work of teaching Shakespeare and, yet, every time we take something away from our students, every time we rob them of a skill, we diminish them and I have been wondering why for a long time. 

This “contemporary English”? With its mix up of grammar and very little idea of how to use pronouns, which are an essential part of any language, by the bye – the proclivity for replacing whole phrases with their anagrams because we’re getting to be too damned lazy to write – ha! – to say – the whole thing and because we’re sticking ourselves with saying the same things over and over….reducing our command of language to an online: on text – rubble.

Language is as rich as the culture that develops it and my worry is that our culture is becoming impoverished because of the minimal effort we want to put into our use of it.

The American, Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom we all know for his leadership against the Coronavirus in the USA, standing up to the mis-guidance of his President, Trump, said to his fellow Americans: “It’s not rocket science: wear your mask, keep a distance from others, wash your hands frequently. And that will reduce the spread of Coronavirus.”

It sounds simple when he says it: the terror of Covid-19 can be confounded by those three simple rules. Especially here, I’ve noticed that we are cautious and polite and I expect we are reaping the rewards of that with low numbers of infection in our immediate neighbourhood. For sure, I have spent way more time at home this year than ever before in my life.

Boredom can be resolved by much more than scrolling endlessly on line, numbing over, looking at the news, seeking out puppy stories, reading the repetitive and increasingly inane “new” wisdom on our screens – going quite a long way to wrecking our eyesight.

Orangeville is host to many book stores, used and new. I hope they are busy places with shoppers wanting something else to look at, something to sit with, companionably tucked up with pages between covers: reading to each other! Old stories that demand something of us; new stories that teach us about our past and what the future will want from us.

We are being encouraged to call each other too, as a beneficial way to combat boredom. Boredom has led to new-found creativity and home renovations.

This has been a dark year – yet, there is light everywhere.


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