Technological advancements in society are astounding; I am sure from this phrase the majority of people will think of the technology on which we concentrate on so much today. It took me some study and commitment to really understand with more depth the meaning of the word ‘technology’ and the fact that it can not at any point in history be removed from the context of humanity.
I am writing this by hand using a pen, onto a piece of paper (though I later typed it up onto my internet site). The accoutrements and the activity exist due to human technological advances developed thousands of years ago for the purpose of communication. Writing was seen skeptically by many people as it arose in respective cultures – if stories and information were simply documented thus, what would become of memory and intelligence? Socrates, for example was documented by Plato in his ‘Phaedrus as saying, “[Writing] destroys memory [and] weakens the mind, relieving it of… work that makes it strong. [It] is an inhuman thing.”
Indeed I know of no-one who can recite the Iliad from beginning to end, though I do not doubt that a contemporary someone has placed the will and dedication into the task of learning it, perhaps not from another poet or such, rather using the technology of written communication is some way. In this way, writing and reading has not only been cause of a reduced necessity to memorise, but also was one of the tools that allowed us to become less tied to family and tradition of to place, as we could communicate at larger distances individually. Communication – a necessity of living among others – changed from a relational, intuitional and verbal act, to one that could be placed on a surface using abstracted symbols or letters.
Yet even today, with this great human advance, we have not stopped communicating verbally, nor socially. The technological tools for writing are used for a task; the greater the task, the more refined the communication and the art of communication, the more powerfully those tools function. Yet they remain tools. It is the human expressing himself to others at the heart of writing’s use.
Now, what would it be if one were completely enthralled with the tools of writing (say, a beautiful new journal and pen) but had no task for it? Well, of course, one could create tasks, even meaningful ones. There is an opportunity to learn something new, for example calligraphy, or refine one’s art or style of writing. One could dedicate oneself to these tasks and become a very good writer. One might find they haven’t the will or wish to educate themselves further, nor to communicate anything much – they may be left contemplating these beautiful, enthralling tools without a task.
Today it is hard to imagine that someone might be so excited about these tools, but so at a loss for a task, that they might sit for a whole day in this rather miserable limbo, without attending to the other necessities of life – without also, attending to necessary communications with others. In this case the tools’ effect on the person in question has gone so far as to stop the communication for which they were designed to give ease to.
But, perhaps , this person slowly, creating a task, begins to write, though the person he writes to is in the next room, simply for the joy of using the tools. He writes his monologue and passes it to the other person to read; they are now also using these tools. In their response, should they write back of verbally communicate any comments they may have, standing as they are in the same room? And what becomes important in this relation, the communication or the tool for its own sake, the use of which was fuelled by the first person’s lust in its use? Could this interaction be at all considered a truthful interaction? Is it perhaps distracting our protagonist and his friend from other, more honest, necessary tasks?
It is like a passenger train running a long journey empty of passengers. Running simply for the schedule, or because of the enamoured lust in its being able to run. Using the sam resources for no real purpose!
Tools can help us develop wonderful new capacities through our human striving to evolve and become. Tools can also be used in themselves, and at some point can even be what we use to distract ourself from any real striving, any real work and any real relation with others or the outside world.