Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Factoids Are Forever

'Sorry, fellas: Nero has forwarded me one fucking conspiracy theory too many!' - La mort de Sénèque, by Luca Giordano (1884), via Wikimedia Commons - public domain
La mort de Sénèque (The Death of Seneca), by Luca Giordano (1684). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


The trouble with the Internet is that it induces shoddy reading and writing habits, fuelling a toxic cultural bloom of faddishness and factoid-mining; drowning thought in swamping tides of so-called information; and creating a dumbed-down culture of attention-deficient OH CRAP I CAN'T EVEN BE ARSED TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE, you know the drill, there are already 426,879 essays on the Web which can fill in the blanks for you, if you don't know them all by heart already!

(Breaking News: Now 426,880.)

Every time I see this jobbie come bobbing back again, my mind turns to Seneca. Actually it usually turns first to senna-pods, and then to Seneca by a sort of persistent loose association; but it sounds more scholarly and austerely classical the other way, so kindly forget I mentioned it. Anyway, the old Roman offers us a salutary reminder of what Western culture was like before we wilfully flushed our brains down the Intatubez, and I think he well deserves the fresh bay of providing my Billy Quote for the month!

The scholar Didymus wrote four thousand books. I would pity him if he'd read as many useless works. Among them you find enquiries into Homer's birthplace, Aeneas's real mother, whether Anacreon was more of a womanizer than a drunk, whether Sappho was a prostitute, and other things worth forgetting if you knew them. Go on, tell me that life is not long!

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