Having place. As I passed the Post Office,

Having left
the buying of the Christmas presents late again, I was walking around one of
the Shopping Centres in Galway just before Christmas. While I was there, I
noticed an amount of communication mechanisms taking place. As I passed the
Post Office, some people were mailing letters. Further down at the Library
there were a number of people sitting in front of computers and connected to
broadband. On the seats outside the Library, a group of schoolchildren were
updating their friends on social media and texting furiously on their mobile
phones. As all of this was going on it struck me that the written word had
returned to us again through advances in modern technology!

There was a
time when the old-fashioned letter was a very important and coveted source of
information. It was particularly so for young people who emigrated from the
shores of Ireland and would not return for a very long time, and sometimes not
at all. These letters were read and read again until the voices of their loved
ones came alive in them and they became a tremendous source of comfort for many
generations. Many of you may still have bundles of these in your attic from
relatives that may have since passed away. If you get a chance, why not dust
them off and read through them once again, as they can be a tremendous source
of therapy after such a long time.

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After a
while, the letters began to be replaced by the telephone. This was an effective
medium for passing on information but never adequate for passing on emotions,
and the majority of conversations were quickly forgotten after the receiver was
replaced after the call had ended. Thanks to the advances in technology over
the past decades, we now have E-Mail, and the explosion of texting and social
media interaction. We are once again challenging people to construct sentences
to carry information and convey emotion. The written word is back and any
modern technology that promotes this is well worth having. If it helps the
younger generation to construct well-meaning sentences and give their opinions,
it will be of major benefit to us all, and also for the continuity of
civilization as a whole.

No matter
how far we expand on the technology front, mankind’s innate desire for
expression in words, painting and sculpture will always remain with us. We have
seen examples of this in our prehistory and later history from the cave
paintings at Lascaux in France, the Egyptian hieroglyphics, ogham stones, and
the painstaking work on the Early Christian manuscripts. There was an opinion
some years ago that newspapers, magazines and books would cease to exist in
their current form and that we would be reading them online. This will happen
to an extent but never fully. Books are much more than books, they are a
testament, in words, to generations that have since passed out of living
memory. How could we possibly live without the smell of books, to hold them in
our hands, and make notes on them as we happily progress through the pages and
chapters.

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