Everyone has a preference as to the type of art and media they consume. Some people like books, others prefer movies, television programs, live theater, music, online content and many simply like a combination of all of the above.
Even though our modern society is captivated by “the next big thing” technologically, it is the written word, no matter how it is delivered (printed or on a screen) that has a unique ability to communicate deeply like no other medium and is still the best way (in my opinion) to consume content.
Why is that? After careful scientific analysis of my personal biases, I’ve determined that written words are king for two reasons:
- No musical soundtracks
- No special effects
Real life doesn’t have them and neither does the written word.
This concept was made real to me on an evening flight from the east coast to Chicago years ago. From my window seat, I pondered the business of the day while staring out the window into the black. In a moment, the jet cleared some clouds and below me in the distance were the lights of Cleveland, Ohio. It was a beautiful, sparkling sight. Then, as I visualized a map of the Midwestern United States, I realized that could see the lights of Akron just south of Cleveland, then Toledo in the distance, Detroit, Michigan north of that, Fort Wayne, Indiana in the distance and my destination Chicago on the far horizon 350 miles away, all glimmering in the cold, clear air, as seen from 35,000 feet…and all visible at the same moment.
That was the point when I decided that soundtracks and special effects only got in the way. Silence was the best music and millions of lights spread out over hundreds of miles were the ultimate special effect.
I often consider how life would feel different if at various points in your day, a dramatic, comedic, or majestic musical soundtrack accompanied it. Or when you hit your head, a “boing!” reverberates through the room and a laugh track sounds. Of course, it would not be comical at all. Hitting your head hurts and life has no accompanying music or background effects.
What if it did?
On a cold snowy morning, I dress warmly, grab the snow shovel and hit the garage door opener.
(Cue the Emperors Theme from Star Wars)
As the door opens agonizingly slow, revealing a foot of snow needing shoveling on the driveway, I pull on my leather gloves in slow motion as a puff of exhaled breath signals the start of the task before me. (The music swells to a climax)
Blogger note: Imagining scenarios like this does not qualify as mental illness. Goofy maybe, but not enough to qualify for medication.
Then, in a burst of reality, I set down the shovel, go over to the gas-powered snow blower, pull the starter and get the whole job done in ten minutes, quickly returning the machine to its spot in the garage, close the door quickly and run indoors where it is warm. The noise of the snow blower engine drowns out the background music and wakes the neighbors. (As my mother would say, “Holy cats Dan, what is that noise?”)
That is real life.
Books in any form are better at communicating real life simply because they stimulate our imaginations as well as our intellects. Movies and their respective soundtracks and special effects connect primarily with our emotions.
Of course, in a deeply spiritual or romantic view of life, I suppose there are “soundtracks” of birds chirping or babies crying, but those simply attest to the simplicity and “realness” of life, which is never as dramatic as movies make it seem.
This is probably another reason why most authors truly hate the movie version of their books. It makes the real unreal or at the very least, not what they imagined when they wrote it.
Showing a dramatic or meaningful moment in writing activates the imagination and creates a powerful, memorable mental image.
That’s why I like the written word.