Among students of the Western world, is there any more iconic topic signifying all things dull, stultifying, or perhaps just incomprehensibly old than the study of the Bard? I mean, Branagh and Fishburne notwithstanding, Shakespeare is synonymous with all that is old fashioned and academically traditional - right? I think of putting my Shakespeare coursework into the Twitterverse of babble in short bursts and some sort of anachronistic aneurism threatens my brain. I'm suddenly very very old. Just ... old. (My husband's grandmother got as far as toaster ovens but refused to learn microwaves. Somewhere in Paradise, she's laughing at me today.)
Then I did my morning prayer office. I calmed down. I remembered that the globe has convulsed and endured its spasms and fits on its way to modernity before. There was a little thing called the industrial revolution, after all. Or, more recently, the thrum of doom, doom, doom, as the End of Books was prophesied. Ha!! The end of books. What a joke! E-books are one more kind of books, and the computer has made the old-fashioned kind with pages in it into a work of art and wonder, not an obsolete museum piece. Sheesh. What am I so afraid of? Why should Twitter and Pinterest make me feel like a time traveler in a fur loincloth? New stuff doesn't eliminate old stuff - it winnows it.
New movies make the best of the old ones show up better. New books make old books useful and desirable and lovely in a whole new way, and the chaff and fluff and goop dies off. That, I think, is what new technology is doing. I think it's the vibrating screen that sorts things into various sizes and separates the big from the small. And, when the screens have shaken the load, some things remain. Some things are still here. I got to thinking about this and I started to compile a list in my head.
Useful Skills Ancient and Modern
- needle and thread sewing;
- good breath support during singing, and the ability to read music;
- the making of a well-built fire of wood;
- making stories up, telling old stories aloud and without any visual accompaniment (and listening to those stories);
- acting stories out;
- hiking, walking, strolling, ambling, and generally taking the world a the pace of a human stride;
- spelling and punctuation conventions (because if you don't know the rules you don't know when to break them);
- asking for forgiveness;
- cleaning a house, a body, and clothing, without the use of commercially manufactured products;
- being ill and getting well without pharmaceuticals (and knowing thereby when pharmaceuticals are a wise choice);
- being quiet;
- focusing the attention;
- synthesizing old and new learning, information, and the wisdom of others.