I was browsing through the Clarion-Ledger the other day and decided to look for a feature I used to love to read, the Lost and Found section. It wasn’t there. Too bad, I thought, because a lot of things are being lost today. Maybe I could find them.
When papers did have a Lost and Found column, I always looked for the lost pets. A dog or cat is the worst thing to lose, and my heart always went out to the owners. When I saw a lost pet listed, I would catch myself looking for it as I went about my business.
But we’re losing so many things today that can’t be found. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Like cursive writing, which is no longer being taught in schools. Educators figure that students will be typing, not handwriting from now on, and that’s probably true. That’s why you aren’t getting handwritten thank you notes anymore--if you’re lucky you get a text that says “thnx.”
I still enjoy doing cursive writing just for the act itself, and I write with a fountain pen that requires bottled ink. The use of ink cartridges is cheating! Unfortunately, with no one doing much cursive writing, there’s not much market for pens and even less for bottled ink. I now have to order ink from Germany, where perhaps there are still a few people who write “by hand.”
We haven’t just lost writing in schools. We’ve also lost the classics of literature in schools. Most students can’t read well enough anymore to get through anything but the simplest modern text, much less wade through a Great Expectations or a Hamlet. Besides, with our modern morality of “if it feels good do it” and “I didn’t sin, I made a lifestyle choice,” the great moral questions of the classics are irrelevant to most modern students. What’s the big deal about Hester Prynne getting pregnant out of wedlock with preacher Arthur Dimmesdale’s baby in The Scarlett Letter? Happens every day now. No point on wasting time reading about her shame and his moral agony. Nobody has to feel shame anymore!
In fact, nothing old has much value in today’s world. One of the things we’ve lost is interest in history, which is being rewritten anyway to suit modern tastes, whether the events really happened that way or not.
Along with history, we’ve lost interest in appreciation of anything old that people once venerated. So there’s not much market for antiques these days. Nobody is decorating with them anymore, and those who thought they were making an investment by purchasing Victorian or Colonial furniture or old silver patterns are sad to learn that they aren’t worth much to a young buying public.
We’ve already lost the skill of sewing, which every young girl once needed to learn if she wanted any clothing. China now supplies our clothing, most of it so cheaply that we can’t afford to buy the patterns and fabrics to create our own designs instead. Unfortunately, if your Chinese-made pants are too long, you haven’t learned how to hem and you don’t own a sewing machine anyway, so you just let them drag the ground and call the frayed hem “the latest style” or get yourself taller shoes.
We’ve pecked away on social media for so long and isolated ourselves so much reading what other people say about themselves, that we have also lost the art of conversation. I don’t know many teenagers who can put more than three sentences together to converse with an adult, and they don’t seem to talk to each other -- they just stare at their phones together, and that passes for socializing.
We’re losing male and female pronouns and calling everybody a “they” so that no one is offended to be called what he? she? is. Apparently, it’s insulting to be called a “he” or a “she” today. I saw an add for a missing teenager, obviously female, but the text said “they” had been missing from San Francisco for a month. It would help to know whether I’m looking for a male, a female, or a crowd, but I wouldn’t want to offend “them” by calling them what they are.
We’re losing movie theaters, snail mail, men’s suits, coins and all things paper, including printed invitations and paper money.
My boss Pat Brown wrote a column for this paper about the loss of newspaper readers and what this is going to mean for society. People don’t read papers because some can’t read well enough. Some don’t want to read the truth, so they go on Facebook for their “news.” After years of short, dumbed down material at school, some can’t make their way through text more challenging than the words on the back of a cereal box.
But the upshot of losing newspapers is that people will do even more as they please to the public, and there will be nobody to call them to account.
Tomorrow’s Lost and Found column might say:
LOST - an educated public with an interest in their own welfare. Last seen around the end of the 20th century.