The dumb luck of how we communicate

“English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education — sometimes it’s sheer luck, like getting across the street.” 

— E.B. White, “English Usage,” as collected in “The Second Tree From the Corner” (1954)

Even the best of our writing will eventually have dated elements, will use words no one uses anymore or be judged critically. Of course, nearly all of our writing won’t be judged at all, but simply pass away. In a digital age, this is even more true — even as the Library of Congress archives Twitter and we can download and backup our Facebook profiles, all that will likely be more information to, ultimately, ignore.

It will be sheer luck, too, for almost all of us who do manage to get noticed, who emerge from the digital cacophony to spark a new round of communication.

Will these long odds and likely grim ending stop us from writing, sharing and musing? Unlikely. We’ll redouble our efforts and set forth into the unforgiving future. Millions have done so before us, and we are better off, and millions who do so after us will benefit from our labors — though I’m not banking on my writing being read decades from now.

An open question: What, besides hard work and luck, can we do to change that equation?

%d bloggers like this: