From the Editors

In writing and editing this issue of Planet Vermont Quarterly on the theme of technology, I was struck by the distinction between the art of writing, and the technology of writing. When I think of writing, I usually think of the inspiration, the ideas to be communicated, the meanings and sounds of words and how I put them together. I less often think of the technologies that are involved—the tools and appliances I use to transform my words from thought or speech into written form.

We usually associate technology with science, not the creative arts. Indeed, the main definition of the word is “the application of science, esp. to industrial or commercial objectives.” But the word “technology” comes from the Greek tekhne: “art, craft, or skill,” + logia: “the study or knowledge of.” And logia, of course, is derived from logos, which means “word.”

Any attempt to render thought into speech is an exercise in limitation—words and sentences are linear, and thought is anything but! Trying to write well is as hard as catching butterflies, and often as disappointing. Lovely thoughts and images flutter in my mind, but when I try to put the ideas into words that convey their loveliness, it can have the same sad effect as catching a butterfly and pinning it onto a specimen board. Pretty, but dead.

To preserve the magic and vitality of the original inspiration takes skill, and craft, and art, inspiration and technology working harmoniously. If the pen you use skips, or the ink gushes and blots, or the typewriter keys jam, or the computer crashes, your writing, no matter how inspired it started out, is going to be affected.

My inner Luddite scorned the use of computers for writing for a long time. I like the methodical calm of putting pen to paper. The small friction between paper and ink can be a reminder to slow down, to take time, to form letters with reverence in remembrance of their sacred origins. I enjoy the straightforwardness of a good writing implement—an HB pencil, sharpened to a crisp point, a smoothly flowing rollerball pen, or, for sheer ritual, the elegance of a fountain pen. The choice of what to write on is of equal importance: loose leaf or notebook, lined or unlined, wide or college-ruled.

Despite any attention I might pay to what I write with, I have always had messy handwriting. I used to think it was just a bad thing, a failure to learn the “right” way to copy script in third grade. And while I now I prefer to think that it is due to the creative rush of inspiration tumbling forth faster than my hand can keep up, I do appreciate the way typewriters give you a neat, deliberate product, the words all lined up in even rows.

Some people claim typewriters are more calming than word processors because they encourage you to think in increments longer than nanoseconds, and because it requires more muscle to tap out the letters. I do enjoy the satisfying little punch of typewriter keys, which you don’t get with a computer keyboard. It may be that typewriters force their users to take more time to compose a thought, and that is a good thing. Pen and ink are even better at that. You write more thoughtfully when every change requires more ink and paper, and more work to correct.

But while I have heard folks complain that computers and Internet interactions are too fast, too technological, too foreign to a simple and “real” life, I prefer to take responsibility to slow my own thoughts down. I would rather pace myself through meditation and self-reflection, than rely on the limitations of a typewriter, or any other machine, to force slowness and thoughtfulness upon me. What, after all, is the pace of simplicity?

Because the truth is, our thoughts are complex, and faster than the speed of light. Computers allow us to communicate in a fashion more like the fast, tangential, meandering movement of thought.

I had to learn how to write well on a computer—neither too sloppily nor too controlled. At first, liberated from carbon paper and white-out, I fell prey to verbal excess. Out spewed every thought I could put into words. Embarrassed by that, I swung to the other extreme. I began to edit everything as soon as it hit the screen—I could move or delete a word, a sentence, an entire paragraph instantly, so I did. I had to learn to quiet the inner critic that demanded instant perfection and immediate attention to typos or grammatical errors, and instead learn to trust that thoughts and words could flow more easily if I let them flow, as unimpeded as possible, from mind to fingertips. There is time enough after the Muse stops for air to go back and make refinements.

A computer makes it possible to instantly edit our words, or spew them out carelessly. Like most of our technological advances, it gives us more creative power, on a bigger scale. That is the scary part. The computer has turned all its users into potential desktop publishers. While this can be a good thing, loosening the stranglehold of big publishing houses, it can also mean a lot of stuff gets put out there that hasn’t got much merit. Just because it is easy to put something into print doesn’t mean you should.

It’s like that with other inventions, too. Just because we can imagine something doesn’t mean we should create it. There are many inventions that are the technological equivalents of a foot in the mouth, or worse, maledictions. It would be better for us all if they had never been made. But they were, because no one thought to edit them out.

It seems refinements in writing technology actually confront us with our own restless and undisciplined minds. If we prefer the clackety clack and muscular involvement of pressing real metal keys to paper simply because we find pleasure in it, that is one thing. But if we stick to typewriters because we fear the speed of the computer, that is another. We can no more blame our vertigo on the computer than we can blame typos on the typewriter.

The disquiet we might feel at the pace of technological advancement is a little wake up call, a signal to take an editorial look at the list of assumptions, fears and opinions whirling around in the recesses of our minds. Technology is merely a product of our intentions and desires, examined, or not. The point is that we are all responsible for our creations. It is up to us to decide if they really should be made manifest, or if they would be better off left in the realm of ideas. As Walt Kelly’s character, Pogo, said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Or, to put it another way: “We have met the editor, and he is us.”

In this issue on the theme of technology, we present articles that explore technology from a variety of perspectives. How do we feel about it? What has it done for and to the world? We hope you enjoy this summer issue of PVQ.

Planet Vermont Quarterly is for sale.

As Vermont’s premier holistic paper, we believe PVQ fills a niche that is not met by any other paper in the area.

We know how much PVQ means to its readers, and how many people find inspiration, entertainment and helpful information in the stories, articles and ads we publish. We take great pride in the letters we receive that tell us about connections and friendships formed as a result of PVQ, or lives changed in some positive way by information in one of PVQ’s articles or interviews.

We also know how much PVQ has meant to us. It would be nearly impossible to list the gifts and joys we have received as a result of publishing this paper for the last 10 issues. We have satisfied many creative urges through writing, editing, and designing the paper. We have met people who will be lifetime friends. We have learned so much about the wonderful, vibrant holistic community in Vermont and neighboring communities. We have been honored to be a central part of a network of people doing healing, creative and innovative work throughout the region.

We know PVQ has the potential to grow in quality and distribution even more than it has in the last few years. The 20,000 copies we print every three months are not nearly as many as would be welcomed across the state of Vermont and beyond to our neighbors in New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

However, with a family, full time jobs, and increasingly numerous commitments in other areas, we are realizing that we can no longer give PVQ the time it needs to maintain or better yet, improve upon the standards we have set for it.

That is why we are looking for someone from Vermont, an individual or a group, who is inspired to carry on with PVQ’s mission: “to present thoughtful information that challenges people to keep their minds and hearts open and contribute their best toward a better world; to provide an appealing, low-cost venue for information on innovative, holistically-oriented activities, goods and services in the region; and to foster a sense of community centered on these ideals.”

We would also like to see collaboration between the various alternative publications in this region, perhaps in the form of shared advertising and calendar listings, to make it easier for readers to know at a glance what is going on in Vermont Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire.

It is not an easy decision to pass the torch, but it is time. If you share our vision for this paper, and have the time and resources necessary to realize that vision, we hope to hear from you.

Susan Beal
David Pearson
Planet Vermont Quarterly

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