Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nobody else ever is going to know about this.

One reason why the music of Led Zeppelin has become so successful is that nobody managed to cover it in a better way.
Any other musician doing a Led Zeppelin song made a fool of himself.
This is the same with the sequences made on the deserted beaches of Mexico in the 70’s and 80’s.
They have been imitated many times to make one laugh only.

This brings us to the famous author Henry James.

In his lifetime, 1843-1916, he wrote more than 10.000 letters.
They are preserved and became material for scholars trying to explain and interpret what kind of man he was.

Those were the days…

The times we are living in now, people are still expressing themselves with words.
The difference is that it is in a way that will be forgotten forever.
No scholar will be able to look back at anybody of our times to determine who somebody was.
Henry James would sit down and write with a pen on paper.
Those papers have survived and are kept and are still available for reading.
However, these days, texts are written on a computer, published on the Internet and next evaporate into oblivion.
Years from now nobody will know much about what we thought and what we wrote.

This makes us remember the Polaroid pictures of the 70’s.
These cameras came on the market allowing people to make a picture that was ready almost instantly.

A square formatted image, black on the back and a white space underneath the image.

People who documented for example the childhood of their offspring didn’t realize that those images would fade within a few years.
This resulted in the first generation that were photographed while their images disappeared within 10 years.
A generation that couldn’t look back seeing the pictures of their childhood.
The documentation gone.

This is more and more the case.
We don’t document our lives anymore, not in words, not in images, that will survive 2007 – Henry James’ 1916 = 91 years.
The ways we document is in an evaporating way.
It doesn’t last.
It will be gone in the future.
No way generations after us can have an idea about our lives now, like we can study the life of Henry James.
Only because he wrote his letters with ink on paper and not on a computer sending it as e-mails.

Before, in times seeming ages ago, when there was no internet, from a location like Punta Marquez where the conceptual photography was made, letters were written.
By hand with ink on paper and mailed from the post-office of La Paz, Baja California, Mexico.
Most of those letters were to the partner in life at the time.
Hundreds and hundreds of handwritten letters.
After the separation this wonderful lady returned a large box in which all those letters.
These letters are now in the archive of the Historical Photography Department of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands where they are studied by art-historians.

But for many years now hardly ever a letter is written.
All texts are written on the Apple computer and send as e-mails or in blogs or in chats.
These e-mails and other digital words are written, sent and disappear into etherized eternity.
Everything written after the introduction of the computer and the Internet is lost.
It simply doesn’t exist anymore.
Years from now researchers will have no clue what was written and what was going on from the moment the computer came around.

Is this good or is this bad?
It is not good and it is not bad: it simply is like this.

Being a pragmatist and an optimist the good side of it is cherished.
What to do about it anyway?
Print out every blog, every e-mail and every MSN-conversation on long-lasting paper and store it in an archive?
Impractical and impossible…

The good side is that we can question why it matters?
That we document our lives in a way for future generations to know.

And it is realized that because what is written now will not exist later, makes it even more intense and important the very moment itself.
Like these words now.
They are between us.
And nobody else ever is going to know about it.


To learn more about the author Henry James, click on:


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