The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television. ~Andrew Ross
I am indeed prone to hyperbole, but I’ll go ahead and say it: the advent of writing is by far the greatest tipping point in all of civilization. Often I think about the instant in which it happened, that very first moment when a primitive person scored a few strokes on a rock face, in order to demonstrate some idea, however simple, to another cave-dweller.
It floors me that there was a specific point in time (maybe at seventeen minutes after sunrise on the 25th day of the year 42,128 B.C.) when a few people convened to attempt to relate something to each other with markings on a wall. They could never have imagined the epic, world-changing sequence of events triggered by this tiny, innocuous act, but I suspect that each of those individuals left that little gathering with an as-yet-unprecedented sense of understanding and closeness to their peers.
That first instance of symbol-scrawling unlocked an incalculably powerful ability in humans. Suddenly, knowledge was no longer confined to an individual’s memory. It could be transferred, replicated, stored and accumulated. It could be displayed in a public area, for an entire community to see and absorb into their own personal knowledge. Each individual could now contribute their own exclusive insights and experiences to a collective, whereby everyone could gain from them.
Whatever happened that day exactly, it marked the point in time when knowledge became bigger than any one person. Finally we could accumulate information and insight outside of our addled, vulnerable brains. Writing made thought permanent, immortal.
This must have unleashed a ferocious tidal wave of advancement. The best methods for hunting, gathering, farming, interacting, crafting, and living could have become apparent to everyone very quickly, and the less efficient methods could be abandoned. This proliferation of permanent thought sparked exponential growth in individual and collective human knowledge.
The written word allows us instant access to the thoughts of greatest minds in history. I can go to the library, and within minutes be experiencing Thoreau’s 150-years-dead contemplations about mindfulness. I can cross the aisle and absorb a first hand account of the Normandy Invasion, or slip into the adjacent aisle and, by suppertime, know what the world’s leading CEOs do to keep organized.
The information age has applied yet another multiplication bracket to the already exponential growth of human knowledge. Among countless other incredible feats, our beloved internet has effected three very significant changes in the writing world:
- The written word can now travel from person to person across any distance, at the speed of light
- Virtually anyone can now publish whatever they like
- Virtually anyone can now find something great to read any time they like
Getting your work read is no longer exclusive to a well-connected and well-established few. You don’t need to get a publisher to get behind you. You don’t need to be profitable. You can do it all yourself. Immortality is now free.
The past five or so years have brought on a new explosion of neatly packaged and readily transferred ideas in the medium of blog posts. Technorati is currently tracking over 112 million blogs, which realistically only represents a fraction of the total blogosphere around the world. I’ll be blunt and say most of them are certainly terrible, but if even ten percent are readable, and ten percent of those readable blogs are good blogs and ten percent of those good blogs’ posts are great posts, that means there are already hundreds of millions of great blog posts at your fingertips right now, with a few million more dumped onto the pile every week.
Deep in the vast, mostly forgotten (yet immediately accessible) archives of the blogosphere lie billions of touching, hilarious and brilliant thoughts that humankind has been stockpiling for years. Here are nine that moved me, with excerpts. Bookmark this if you don’t have a lot of time right now.
The Genie — by Angus from Belief Systems & Other BS
Angus presents a heartbreaking lesson about human nature, in a brief and colorful fable. Chances are good it applies to you too.
Lost in his thoughts, he kicked at some debris on the beach. One object—an old metal teapot?—rolled for several feet and then came to a stop perched upright on its base. A luminous purple gas hissed out of the spout.
You Are Self-Employed — by Steve from Stevepavlina.com
In an uncharacteristically-short 744-word post, Steve completely and permanently flipped my mentality towards working life upside-down.
The only true boss of your work is you. Any external boss is just a customer of your personal services business. Maybe you’ll do a great deal of business with a single customer, but you’re always free to fire a customer you don’t like. Saying “I quit” to your boss is essentially the same as saying to a customer, “I’m sorry, but apparently our business is unable to serve you.
Don’t Wait Their Little Lives Away — by Sherri from Serene Journey
An urgent must-read for anyone with small children; and for the rest of us, an important reminder to live now instead of always “making other plans.”
When they take their first steps we can’t wait for them to run, start to speak and then read. Before you know it they are doing all this stuff and at some point you think “wow when did this all happen?” and begin wishing you had it all back again.
The Internet and the Love Revolution — by Michael from Love to Spare
I am a firm believer that the internet is going to bring humanity closer together than was ever thought possible only a few years ago. Michael has a gentle finger on humanity’s pulse.
There’s an important message here: Despite our desire for self gain, our right to privacy, our intolerance, our mistrust and the safe distance we try to maintain from each other, we have a fundamental need to share. We have a thirst to reach out and connect with others, to communicate, to contribute and collaborate as a part of something larger than ourselves. Isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?
How to be Awesome — by Chris from The Art of Nonconformity
World traveler and extremely nice guy Chris Guillebeau presents blunt and straightforward instructions on how to be awesome in a world where so few seem to want to be.
In any given work environment, almost everyone is focused on one goal: to make themselves look good. If you can change things around and focus on making other people look good, you’re well on the way to being awesome. In some environments (certainly academia), this is exceedingly rare behavior.
The “Hey, you’re my long-lost pal from camp!” Technique — by Gretchen from The Happiness Project
A surprisingly simple, surefire way to feel better and make more friends, for free, courtesy of the Queen of Happy, Gretchen Rubin.
When I was in sixth grade, my classroom had a poster that said, “If you want to make a friend, be a friend.” I guess that just because a piece of advice can be found on a Snoopy poster doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying.
Young, Confused Iris — by Lisis from Quest for Balance
Pondering a resilient iris plant, an insightful Lisis recognizes a virtue shared by all plants and few people: patience with oneself.
Does she envy the weeds that still wear occasional flowers? Does she grow impatient with herself because somewhere, deep down, she kind of knows that she is more than we see, but no matter what she tries, she can’t show the world just yet? Does she realize there are too many variables that she cannot control?
Ten Simple Things We All Should Say More Often — by Ali from Dumb Little Man
So adorably simple. I think a habit of saying number 7 alone could change anyone’s life for the better.
“I don’t think we’ve met. I’m [name].”
What’s Wrong With the World? Not a Damn Thing — by Leo from ZenHabits
Initially I didn’t particularly like ZenHabits because it was too “listy” and “tippy.” This post revealed the depth of Leo’s wisdom to me. Finally, a sane view of the world at large. One of the best posts I’ve ever read.
It struck me recently that a lot of people think they know what’s wrong with this world, and it also struck me that they’re all wrong…
These nine little posts represent only a tiny speck of the growing electronic ‘brain’ we call the blogosphere. I feel so lucky to have a few of my own little drops in this gigantic bucket. Please share this post with others (click the green icon below), and let me know your own discoveries. The landscape of permanent human thought is growing faster than we can explore it, so let’s help each other out.
Think on, brothers and sisters. And write it down.
Photo by eflon