Every now and again I catch myself in a moment where I am living a cliché. I realized that truth this morning as I was sitting in my pajamas on a sunny, hot, humid August morning listening to jazz, reading the Sunday Washington Post, and finishing my coffee. I grew up in a world without television. Not that I was born before television, but we did not have a television because I grew up in a conservative, cult-like environment and it was against our religion – my Father’s religion, really. So I grew up in a world of imagination and books, dreaming about what my life would be like when I was able to flee small-town life and become a real person, my own person. We were allowed to read books, magazines, and newspapers, and I believe that was the only way we survived, my brothers and I. And we did read, voraciously, devouring almost anything we could get our hands on.
In some ways, I think we learned how to live through characters in books, and later on through film, particularly old black and white films. In those books and films, the young urban sophisticate would be curled up on Sunday mornings with a national newspaper, sipping on a cup of coffee, and listening to jazz on the stereo. Of course who listens to the radio anymore, except in the car, if then? But that was the scene, leisurely spending the morning with coffee, the newspaper, and listening to jazz.
While fewer and fewer people read actual newspapers, particularly in my Generation X, there is something very comforting in the ritual and in knowing that thousands upon thousands of people have spent their Sundays in exactly the same way over the years. Rituals can be very comforting, particularly when the rest of life is filled with uncertainty and at times, chaos.
I like the feel of a newspaper in my hands. Reading the newspaper is, for me, a tactile experience. The smell of the paper, the sound of the rustling as pages are flipped, the black newsprint rubbing off on your hands, these are all part of the immersion experience.
The Washington Post has started delivering parts of the Sunday paper on Saturday for subscribers, the Magazine, the comics, the advertisements to give people a head start on the Sunday experience. They say it is in recognition that people have very busy lives and cannot spend hours attending to the newspaper on Sunday, as they used to. Sometimes I do get a head start on the paper by reading the Magazine and the comics on Saturday. It makes me feel that I am cheating just a little, but it does allow me more time on Sunday to focus on just the pages of newsprint that land on my doorstep.
I realize that I am probably in the last generation of Americans that value newspapers, and I am probably well in the minority in my own generation. My friends in Generation Y or the millenials are quick to tell me that they don’t see the point of newspapers when they can read the headlines on Yahoo or MSN or dozens of websites to get the latest updates. I find that while the Internet is very fast with breaking news, there seems to be little time or value in analysis of what the news headlines mean or what the greater impact is or will be. I read an article recently that said that sites like Google and Wikipedia are making us stupid. Why remember anything when the information is only keystrokes away? The article postulated that we have access to so much more information than in the past but that we only pay attention to the briefest of information, not caring about nuances or depth. I don’t know about you but I don’t really want to be like that. I value knowledge. I value depth of knowledge as well as breadth. Anyone can look up information, but I value the knowledge that comes from deeply processing information and making sense of it in relation to me and my world.
I value the experience of reading a magazine or book that I can hold in my hand, feel the pages turn, smell the print or odors absorbed from surroundings. I like to hear the rustle of pages, not just the click-click of a keyboard. I love the urgency that I feel when I want to return to an absorbing read, a page of a newspaper or a book. I love the way that I feel curled up on a Sunday morning with my coffee, my jazz, and my newspaper. I love that I am taking part in a Sunday ritual that dates back for several generations, the timeless feel, the connection to both past and present.
And that’s the view from here...