As one who possesses not one but three editions of the Britannica in print – the 11th, the 13th and the appallingly organized Macro and Micro one circa 1995 – one wonders how long it would take to read them all once.
According to Wiki,
“A.J. Jacobs, an editor at Esquire magazine, read the entire 2002 version of the 15th edition, describing his experiences in the well-received 2004 book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. Only two people are known to have read two independent editions: the author C. S. Forester and Amos Urban Shirk, an American businessman, who read the 11th and 14th editions, devoting roughly three hours per night for four and a half years to read the 11th.”
The forgotten factor in life
This reminds us of a factor which seems to be neglected more and more in the excitement over new technology and how it expands our horizons, makes the world’s knowledge accessible to all, etc etc.
Time. There are only 24 hours in anyone’s day. This is precisely the same as when Socrates walked the earth of Athens.
With over 100 as yet unseen movies on our Netflix list, and our three Tivos clogged with possibly 300 hours of backlogged tv and film, not to mention 7000 LPs of half an hour of music each, not to mention over 100gb of MP3 music – mostly the very best of jazz and classical and blues – on our players, not to mention about 500 VHS tapes of movies and another 100 of old TV, such as a priceless copy of the Clarence Thomas hearings, plus maybe 3000 books, most of which are treasures in part or in whole, one would need nine lives to get through it all once.
Why a scholar divorced
So what is going on here? Does it all make sense? Does any of it make sense?
Women of course say most of it should be tossed, as a matter of principle, the principle being to clear the space in a home for everyday functioning and extending hospitality to visitors. In other words, real life. Life, as in living.
Men, of course, sympathize – with us. They are mostly ready to give up real life in huge chunks for what goes on in the brain, fed by fantasy material or simply scholarship.
We once asked a very distinguished Oxford mathematician why he had suffered a divorce from his presumably charming wife, and he gave us to understand it was because he developed the habit of taking his books to bed with him.
One giant step
Anyhow, our point is, there are only 24 hours a day, and one only has one life to live (presumably), and that life is virtually certain to end before the 100th year.
What sense does it make to have a personal library of one million hours worth of text video and music?
We have cancelled our subscription to the New York Times today.
One small step for man, one giant leap (in the end) for mankind, if others follow.
UPDATE: OK, we gave in. The Times offered four months at half price for the summer, and we fell for it.
So we will have another 120 copies of this reporting treasure chest to get through, which of course, life being what it is in New York City, the capital of information and self indulgence of the entire world, we won’t. Not in four months. Probably not in six months. Probably not ever.
At some point we will probably chuck the entire pile out without keeping more than a few clips, and probably fail to do anything with them.