August 27, 2011

By the time you read this, my words will have become a digital stream of ones and zeroes that have somehow found their way to your screen across the Internet. But you must know, they weren’t always like this. In their original form they were not made of pixels and electrons, no. They were carefully formed by precise traces of blue ink, flowing through the tip of my pen onto the first page of a brand new Moleskine notebook. There’s something incredibly refreshing about a new notebook. That first empty page is very special. It represents a clean slate, a sea of possibilities. A new beginning.

Analog Writing

What is it about beginnings that we love so much? It may be the promise of what’s still to come. It may be the hope for better things as they inch closer, slowly but surely finding their way towards us. Each new beginning brings a unique feeling of anticipation that to me is very much like reading a good book.

There’s a part of you, the impulsive part, that wants to know how the story ends. It wants to know it so badly that you can almost feel a small twinge in your fingers, urging you to turn the page before your eyes can reach the bottom. The other part, the rational part, knows of course that this would be wrong. No matter how phenomenal the ending, getting to know it ahead of time will certainly destroy the experience way beyond the point where it could possibly be worth it.

And so, whenever a story is really special, this internal battle between the two sides of your mind is fought in every chapter, every page and every word until the very last one. However, the insightful, patient reader who loves reading every bit as much as he loves a good ending, can find the strength inside him to resist those urges. One page at a time, each one a small victory, he patiently makes his way through every twist and turn, carefully watching how the story unfolds before his eyes. It is this type of reader that is often rewarded in the end.

The same analogy applies to many other things in life. Take cinema, for instance. Would The Usual Suspects have been the same if you had known Kayser Soze’s identity all along? Or take sports. Do you feel the same way when you watch a nerve-wracking game of your favorite team from start to finish, than you do when you only watch a replay of the decisive moment that came at the very end? No, you don’t. Of course you don’t. You need to build up your emotions in order to care. You need to be aware of the context in which things have happened, otherwise you’re missing the best part. It’s not just the destination, it’s the journey that matters.

Everyone is writing and talking about endings these days. The one that we just had, and the next one that will inevitably come. Many are weighing in and predicting that it will come soon. Others, the sane ones, believe that it’s really far away. But all of them are feeling the urge to know exactly how and when it will be. Personally, I have never cared much for endings. I never felt that it was worth it to spend much of my time and energy going on about them, so this week’s news is not something I enjoy thinking about, and certainly not something I would enjoy writing about. Too many of the pieces I’ve read over the last few days feel way too much like eulogies. Rest assured, I won’t be adding to the pile.

Luckily, they say that every ending brings with it a new beginning. It has long been one of my favorite sayings, mostly because it’s very true. And now we find ourselves with an exciting new beginning ahead of us for the first time in fourteen years. This is a historic moment and as such it is a moment to savor. It’s a beginning full of promise, of new and exciting things to come. It is also one of uncertainty and fear for the unknown, just like every good beginning should be.

Whatever happens now, this book is far from over. And when your favorite author says that the best is yet to come, you could do a lot worse than believing him. Especially considering that up until now he was the one with the pen. So I suggest we all forget about the ending for now, find ourselves a nice, comfortable chair and get ready to continue reading because boy, it’s going to be one hell of a story.