SOMETIMES when I’m writing I know the exact word that I want but it just won’t pop into my head.
Once my method was to stop writing and agonise over the dilemma for ages, running alphabetical lists through my head until I forced the right word through my consciousness.
Now I leave a blank space on the page and, sure enough, when I’ve written a few more paragraphs, the word I want will suddenly surface and I can fill in the gap.
This is what age and a failing memory can do. A faltering memory is not a great asset for a writer.
But it’s not always ageing that’s the problem, there are other things at play. One of them is an increasing reliance on technology.
I have, for instance, realised I am losing the ability to spell. This is a result of using the spell check function on my computer. To a lesser extent it also applies to grammar, although there are many rules I enjoy breaking.
These days, instead of stopping to think about how to spell a particular or unusual word, I simply type in an approximation and do a spell check to get the correct spelling.
What this means is that I am actually losing a skill I once thought was embedded for life. It also means I’m becoming dependent on that particular technology.
This habit goes against something I’ve always held dear, the ability to survive in the world independently and be beholden to nothing.
I’ve always believed that maintaining basic fitness, the best level of health possible and being well-informed, open minded and reliant on my own resources would see me through whatever crisis was thrown my way.
As a child of the Cold War years, with all their doomsday connotations, survival was an important consideration in our lives.
This is one reason I admire the rural populations of Papua New Guinea. The world could collapse and if anyone was going to survive it would be them. Conversely, the first to perish would be the lard-arsed elites who currently leech and steal from them.
Ralph Regenvanu, the Vanuatuan politician, once said that for the rural people of his country the global financial crisis (what Americans call ‘the great recession’) was a non-event.
Technology is de-skilling us at a rapid rate. One day when driverless cars are the norm we will forget how to drive. Processed and fast food are making us forget how to farm and cook. Some computer-addicted kids don’t even know how to hold a pen and write.
There are countless examples of technological things that we have come to rely on and become addicted to. We’re now consumers rather than doers. It makes you think it is all part of a devious plan designed to keep us contented, happy, compliant, docile and dumb.
But it is so fragile.
The recent crash of the electricity network in South Australia during an unusual storm demonstrated just how fragile it is. Nothing worked. The lights went out and cash registers and ATMs wouldn’t work. Petrol pumps were paralysed and nobody knew what to do. They had forgotten how to survive.
Our addiction and reliance on technology is illusory. It is an artificial bubble we live in that could go pop at any moment.
And when it does, the subsistence gardeners, the meek of the world in the remote mountains and valleys will wander down to pick among the ruins and marvel at our stupidity.
I switched off my spell check about a week ago. Sorry for any spelling errors in the above but I’m slowly relearning and hope to be back up to speed soon.
It might help rejuvenate a few of those old memory cells too.