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Blessed Is He Who Writes Without Using Smiley Faces

Pity the elusive mouse who must struggle to disconnect himself in the minds of youthful humans from the ubiquitous, plasticized keyboard kind.
Does anyone any longer recognize the fundamental literary distinction between Walt’s beloved “Mickey” and some cordless, unconnected robot rodent? What have we done with our words? Rats!

Shame on the unwashed who thoughtlessly seem unable to differentiate the dissimilarity in essence that divides a computer keyboard and one played upon powerfully by Liberace or pounded upon forcefully by the fiery Jerry Lee Lewis.

Oh, how far has the never very noble Spam now fallen from its wartime usage as a marker for government-produced, cheap mixed meat to its contemporary reference to the unwanted and quickly-consigned-to-electronic-hell of today’s easy come, easy go communication.

And what has become of the serious obligation of equally serious deletion? Where is today’s cutting room floor?

Those who vociferously bemoan the disastrous decline in what was once considered polite, civil discourse might well spend a few well-chosen words of grief over the corruption of common communication.

In addition to the sharp descent of civil conversation in the public electronic square, is it grammatically correct always, insistently and increasingly to be angry?

“O, brother, where art thou?” Where have all the blessed beatitudes gone, “long time passing”? Blessed are those who need not place “LOL” after their messages to communicate their humorous intentions.

Blessed is he or she whose written words can stand the light of clever inquisition without a preemptive smiley face.

How sideways have become our smirking smiles, how crooked our occasional grinning communication.

Those that live by spell-check shall face an equal and equivalent death.

How curious has the malfeasance of our modern speech construction become. How “wearifying” the written art is fast de-evolving.

Perhaps nowhere is this language loss more obvious that the steep degradation of the treasured old-English word, “friend.”

“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” it was once said and believed, in King James English; but modern friends seem to have little elasticity and even less “stickability.”

To be a Facebook kind of friend is unlike any previous species of genuine friendship and surely bears no resemblance to the Quaker kind. A true friend does not ask to be liked.

If it is sadly true that one can be “unfriended” and if friendship may indeed be a verb, isn’t it also true that authentic friendships are rarely so numerous as our electronic ones.

Real friends neither brag about their number nor boast of their political or ideological inclinations nor ruthlessly exclude those with whom they might potentially disagree.

Neither do they post only highly idealized or PhotoShopped versions of themselves solely for other so-called friends or groupies to admire.

It is actually rare for authentic friends to complain publicly to the unfriendly world of sleeplessness or send out detailed reports of intimate toilet habits to be shared with a host of so-called friends and many other unsuspecting passers-by.

If the tin-alley wordsmith once suggested of friendship that “it’s the perfect blend-ship,” there seems less and less to blend, so little longing for harmony.

Khalil Gibran, after all, said, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” But, in our days, we seek uniformity of thinking and conformity of doing from our erstwhile friends.

What thinkest thou? In our speech and written communication, can we be no more precise and selective than this? Can we not observe some boundaries?

Can we forego some less important things, in order to experience genuine communication with others? Can we, at least, think as much as we type?

When our words cannot be more properly managed, what hope is there for our ways?

Bob Newell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, ItsGreek2U, and is used with permission.