Sum It Up Sunday - Literally, Trolls!
I am a loud and proud book nerd. Been this way all my life. I blame my brother Justin, who helped me learn to read. And from whom I’ve stolen a countless number of books in the 47 some years since. (Including some of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy...oops…)
I wrote a story on Patreon called Inter-Library Loan, where the main character has piles of books around his house, placed in the places he spends the most time: the dining table, the bathroom, his easy chair, etc. I live like that, though I have never and will never own an easy chair.
I am always reading 3 or 4 books at a time. Some I read like other folks watch reality TV or read US magazine- something that keeps my brain moving, but not too hard.
Others I read because they are literary masterpieces. If I was to take stock of the books I’ve read, I’m sure a good 75-80% of them have been written before 1980. A good portion of that number would be from before the 19th century even began.
Part of what draws me to them is that the themes they speak to are universal. Whether written today or 400 years ago, we humans still feel the same things, even if the where and why has changed drastically since then.
I’ve got a great example for you: I’ve been reading Samuel Johnson-Selected Writings at the breakfast table (as I said, I’m a book nerd). In his essay The Rambler, No. 144, Saturday, 3 August 1751, what he wrote was so damn universal that I was taken aback. It’s like he could see into our social media connected future.
I’ll quote him directly here, then I’ll paraphrase:
“It is impossible to mingle in conversation without observing the difficulty with which a new name makes its way into the world. The first appearance of excellence unites multitudes against it; unexpected opposition rises up on every side; the celebrated and the obscure join in the confederacy…”
What he means is that even then, there were trolls. When folks were still shitting into chamber pots or in the street, they were also still shitting on one another.
“Yet such is the state of the world, that no sooner can any man emerge from the crowd, and fix the eyes of the public upon him, than he stands as a mark to the arrows of lurking calumny, and receives in the tumult of hostility, from distant and from nameless hands, wounds not always easy to be cured.”
Like I said, trolls. We only need to look to the pure vitriol that has been slung at Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to see that Johnson was way ahead of his time in calling out those who sling those arrows. I am very aware that those shit covered arrows are flung at and from both sides, or more accurately, all sides.
I’m no saint. That is for sure. As I get older, with fewer and fewer fucks to give, I try to call out injustice, unkindness, and ignorance when I see it. I try very hard not to get personal when I am doing so, dealing with the policies I find wrong rather than the hairstyle or weight of those propounding those policies. I am pretty sure that’s called civility. It is something that I strive for. Maybe I’ve learned something from all these old tomes I’ve been absorbing through the years.
There is much, much more in this essay from Johnson that directly relates to our lives today. I’m not going to dig into it more here. Instead, I want to urge you to start reading the books and literature of the past. Like Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”