I like to read books. Lately, however, it’s making me feel old.
I recently submitted an article to an online magazine that I occasionally write for. I made what I thought was a provocative argument about tall buildings and mental illness. The gist of the argument is that people who live in tall buildings are often isolated from others and become depressed (or worse). The point: get out more often and mix it up with fellow human beings — it’s good for you. I based the argument on research published in 1977 in a book called A Pattern Language which is often described as a classic in the design literature. My son, the architect, recommended it to me. Despite its powerful provenance, my editors rejected the piece because they couldn’t find anything on the Internet to substantiate the argument.
So I went back to my copy of A Pattern Language, scanned the appropriate pages with the relevant citations, and sent them to the editors. They still rejected my article. As they pointed out, 1977 was a long time ago. Things may have changed. If the basis of the argument were still true, it should be somewhere in the Internet.
I’m now wondering what to do with all my old books. Should I toss them out? Are all my old Dave Barry books no longer funny? And Jorge Luis Borges — was he just a ficción of my imagination? I’m just now re-reading A Clockwork Orange — it’s the 50th anniversary. Should I just assume that it’s no dobby chepooka and brosay it into the merzky mesto? Wouldn’t that be horrorshow?
I’ve always wondered, how do we know what we know? Perhaps we can simplify the rules now and say, for something to be known, it must first appear on the Internet. That would simplify our lives — and our education systems. What’s your opinion? When does old information become irrelevant information?
By the way, I re-purposed my original article and published it here.