“Blogs are the new marginalia, our annotated lives, riffs on our cultural and political patrimony (like this post), asides on the political drama of the day, knowing winks at perpetuity…” from [email protected]
The contribution to civilization of the Irish “was the preservation of Roman and Greek texts amid the collapse of the Roman empire. The Irish had replaced the Christian tradition of martyrdom with that of “green martyrs,” or monks, whose own recent Celtic roots made them receptive to pagan literature. These monks set about collecting and copying such manuscripts — without censorship — in their remote Irish monasteries, while the barbarians thoroughly brutalized the continent.
These copyists acted as meme-promoters, keeping classical ideas alive until they could once again be let loose on a critical mass of fertile minds in the next renaissance. This is how the memes at the foundation of modern western thought skirted extinction — our knowledge of Plato comes to us through the ages via a thin but sinewy thread that extends through Ireland. Eventually, the Irish monks re-evangelized the continent, and made sure to take the classics with them. By the time the Vikings were raiding monasteries on Ireland, the texts were being kept safe by Irish monks as far afield as Italy.
And while copying was their main task, these monks could not help but populate the margins with annotations, comments, approval or mockery. Cahill writes (in 1995) about what might have motivated them:
[The monks] did not see themselves as drones. Rather, they engaged the text they were working on, tried to comprehend it after their fashion, and, if possible, add to it, even improve on it. In this dazzling new culture, a book was not an isolated document on a dusty shelf; book truly spoke to book, and writer to scribe, and scribe to reader, from one generation to the next. These books were, as we would say in today’s jargon, open, interfacing, and intertextual — glorious literary smorgasbords in which the scribe often tried to include a bit of everything, from every era, language, and style known to him.
That was, effectively, blogging, circa 700 A.D.
Of course, today, we bloggers have been relieved of the task of manually copying the memes we deem worthy of promotion (and disparagement); the cost of copying information is now negligibleIt is even more efficient merely to refer to the texts in question with a link (although at the risk of the link going bad).. Blogs are the new marginalia, our annotated lives, riffs on our cultural and political patrimony (like this post), asides on the political drama of the day, knowing winks at perpetuity…”