Love this website devoted to great writing, long form prose, poetry, and narrative nonfiction! All advert-free and dependent on donations from readers, and probably whatever grants they can get, etc. We need more independent sources of content like this. Also, the state of journalism today is a tragedy. The death of the print model is leaving a lot of roadkill behind. We need journalists, independent of business and politics, to cover our communities, cops, and courts. Newspapers and magazines of the past, in theory, had a civil duty. They kept people accountable. Corruption would be publicized. Crooked cops, politicians, and judges would be exposed and rooted out of the system. Now, people read so little, and what they read is of low quality and influenced by what they buy, as social media and our devices follow our every decision, so what pops up on one’s feed is already influenced. ProPublica.org — Investigative Journalism and News in the Public Interest is a refreshing example of the future of “independent” journalism. I hope to see and support more of this in the near future. Apologies, if they are funded by a partisan group (I have not read their tax returns … wink wink) or researched them enough to know everything about them; however, I enjoy getting their newsletter. Sign up today for good content in your mailbox.
“May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books.”
It’s difficult to overstate how much of an impact the ancient Phoenicians had on language. The fact that you’re able to read these sentences with such ease and clarity is thanks to innovations made by this ancient culture thousands of years ago.
The Phoenicians originated in the Levant, or present-day Lebanon, and flourished in the Mediterranean region through culture and maritime trade 1550 BCE to 300 BCE.
So what was it like before the Phoenicians transformed written language? Before the Phoenicians arrived on the scene, people were limited to systems like cuneiform and hieroglyphics. Although advanced and complex, these early Sumerian and Egyptian writing systems were based on pictograms rather than an actual alphabet.
Instead of using a number of symbols to make up a single word, pictographic writing systems use one symbol to represent an entire word. As you might expect, this leads to a lot of symbols being used, and memorizing all of them is a serious challenge.
On the other hand, the Phoenician alphabet consisted of just 22 symbols, with each representing a different consonant sound. Suddenly, you didn’t need to be a priest to understand a universal written language. Furthermore, the seafaring nature of the Phoenician people allowed them to spread their new language across the Mediterranean. Below is a map discovered in the Phoenician port city of Byblos, located about 30 miles north of present-day Beirut. There are obviously more than 22 symbols in the representation below as it is an early artifact and contains non-alphabetic information.
Interestingly, Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, derives its name from the Greek. Papyrus, a formative invention in the evolution of language – as people obviously needed something to write on, was called byblos (byblinos) in ancient Greek because it was often traded through the city of Byblos by the Phoenicians to the Aegean.
Soon enough, the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and improved upon it by adding vowels. In turn, Greek led to the creation of Latin by the Romans -and this language forms the root of most Western European languages today. They are referred to as Romance languages, not because they are especially romantic compared to other linguistic systems, but because Latin was the language of the Roman empire, the capital of which was Rome.
Just like Phoenician traders crossed vast seas to spread their language and ideas thousands of years ago, today we use the internet to innovate and spread important messages. When a business or a writer needed to voice their opinion before the digital era, they were as limited as ancient Egyptian priests scrawling complex pictographs that only a select few could read or understand.
Today, you can amplify and spread your voice across the entire planet with the content needed to make an impact. New technologies and techniques in the digital marketing sphere continue to push our abilities even further.
Just like the Phoenician alphabet transformed into Greek and then into Latin, the way we communicate and write today is constantly evolving. New techniques in digital marketing, SEO, and content creation emerge every single day. With Paradigm Content Solutions, you can make sure you’re always at the forefront of these changes. Using the latest methods, we can take your digital presence to the next level.
Don’t get left behind. History is filled with individuals and entire societies who have remained stagnant, unwilling to change their ways and adapt to the ever-changing world around them. Just like the Egyptians and Sumerians, their stories become lost in the sands of time.
The digital sphere provides you with the opportunity to have your voice heard, but not if you’re drowned out by the background noise. To make a genuine impact on history, it’s important to speak in a way that reaches the masses. After all, history is written by the victors.
“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” – Sigmund Freud
The power of language, content, and how information moves and influences us amazes me. Content of various mediums, the craft of writing, the importance of stories (and storytelling) — as well as the immense power of images, symbols, motifs, and mythologies — and how these things have moved through history and our own psyches, individually and collectively: always evolving, changing, mutating, influencing, informing, weaving together often clashing ideas of who we are and why we are here, have left an indelible imprint on human civilization perhaps more than any other aspect of life.
Ancient humans told stories through images on cave walls and via oral tradition like we see with the Homeric hymns. This content is pre-writing in its truest sense and, later, content passed down through the generations verbally and was memorized. Eventually, early content creators took those oral songs, dramas, and stories of the ancient Greeks, and compiled them into cohesive narratives like The Illiad and The Odyssey. Although we still don’t really know much about Homer (pictured above), the stories and “hymns” early inhabitants of what is now the region of Greece once loosely shared through song, were eventually “curated” and Western civilization was kind enough to give him credit of authorship, a byline of sorts.
“Good writing is recognizable,” I remember hearing a New York City literacy coach tell my 6th-grade English Language Arts (ELA) class one morning many years ago. Despite my feelings of disillusionment with the NYC Education Department and my short involvement with it, the literacy assistant’s turn of phrase stuck with me. I was teaching in a decaying dinosaur disguised as a middle school near Little Italy in the Bronx, or what little was left of it along a small section of Arthur Avenue, a couple of blocks off Fordham Road — and a 10-minute walk from the storied Jesuit university. Most of the neighborhood and surrounding areas were populated by first and second generation Hispanics and blacks when I briefly worked there in 2006, its Italian heritage displaced like so many other pockets of the city that is always changing. I must of been one of the last generation of college graduates that could afford to live in Manhattan (albeit at the northern tip of it in West Harlem), and work a lower middle class or entry-level job. Even then, my own studio apartment was out of reach — even way uptown. I rented a closet-size room from a friendly Dominican woman who allowed me to pay only $100 a week. I was fortunate to find her through a slightly dodgy roommate agency at 145th and Broadway. What drew me to New York wasn’t teaching, but its literary and cultural history, and being an aspiring writer, its status as being the publishing capital of America.
I enjoyed passing Fordham University on the way home, feeling quite frazzled after a 9-hour shift at M.S. 7000, surrounded by grouchy pre-teens and teens but, more detrimentally, a fully-loaded “strike group”, to use a little navy jargon, of know-it-all, stuffy “educrats” that refused me a moment of peace and autonomy with my overloaded class of students, many of whom were classified as special education with I.O.P.’s (individualized education plans), some sections of which I attempted to co-teach with a Mr. Ferraro, a recent college graduate and hire who had a temporary teaching certification in special education. Initially, I thought it might help having another teacher in the room, but it actually made things more confusing, disorganized … often the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing.
It wasn’t meant to be. I couldn’t handle all the people telling me exactly how to teach, the constant interruptions, lack of resources, the disrespectful and intrusive administration micromanaging my every move. Anyway, I had a better job waiting for me in South Carolina, where I am from, that paid about the same. Moving to New York had never been a lifetime commitment; from the beginning it was more of an experiment and an intense desire to experience living there because of the qualities I mentioned earlier.
On my last day at the school, I didn’t even stick around for the end of the day. I was so disgusted with it all, I walked out during my planning period and never looked back. Feeling somewhat emotionally drained, I stopped in one of the nearest bodegas and bought a couple of cans of beer. I walked straight down Fordham Road, past the university, until I got to the end and saw the Poe Cottage near Grand Concourse.
I sat there beside the fence that surrounded the place back then for about an hour, sipping sullenly on some beer, listening to the bells from the Fordham University church tower, the same bells that are said to have inspired Mr. Poe to write the long and repetitive poetic diatribe, “The Bells,” targeting the intrusive noise pollution of the bells and his own inner demons, perhaps, that plagued his short, unhappy life while he lived in the small home in 1846, his last residence, that is now a seldom visited attraction in the Bronx. I listened to those bells and thought of Poe as I drank beer and resigned myself to leave NYC, wondering where my life was heading, while also thinking of his short story, “The Black Cat,” one of my favorite stories. I was drinking more than ever then, and starting to uncomfortably identify with the protagonist of the story — an alcoholic during the Temperance era in America who couldn’t resist going to his favorite pub several nights a week despite his lack of money and tendency to drink until he blacked out and ended up doing some really disturbing things — irrational and violent actions (some that are directed at his favorite black cat, a pet he claims to love intensely). After waking up the next day and realizing what he had done the prior evening, the narrator would descend into horrible shame, guilt and disbelief. This, in turn, would bring on crippling anxiety and he would end up back at the pub again, sooner than later, despite swearing off the drink forever: a familiar pattern to anyone who has struggled with alcohol (I had my hopefully last drink in May 2018).
Poe had moved up to the Bronx home in 1846 because of the “country air” and the hope that he could nurse his ailing wife (and cousin?) back to health from the tuberculous that was killing her. He was unsuccessful and she died in 1847. He would die under mysterious circumstances while on a mysterious trip to Baltimore in 1849, hence we now have the Baltimore Ravens — named after his most famous poem, a haunting poem written the year before he moved to the cottage, one of the few literary efforts that brought him some fame but little money. Later on, I regularly taught the poem to my college students, but always preferred teaching “The Bells.” At some point, we would always read the poem aloud in its entirety with as much emphasis as I could pull out of them. Despite an undertone of anger and hopelessness that builds and builds throughout it, the poem always made me laugh for some reason.
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Along with writing, I consider reading an essential activity for me, but as one grows older and is burdened, often unnecessarily, with the complications of making our way through this life and world, perhaps raising a child, making a living, maintaining an abode, interacting with our families and the community, trying to write a book, starting a small side business, getting exercise and engaging in hobbies, keeping up some semblance of a social life — as well as having a partner, wife, or dating –if we are fortunate enough to do so in the often cutthroat current marketplace of romance in middle age — it can be damn hard for me to find the time and energy to sit down and read a substantive book.
So, I find myself reading (or re-reading) sections of books, many of which I have already read, or I turn to the classics for inspiration, a great quote or idea, a tidbit of history, even the discovery of a new word. These are valuable things to me. To wake up early in the morning, resisting the urge to reach for the phone and its endless distractions, and simply read a page or two from an intelligent book or the classics, maybe even write down a quote, do a little journaling, brainstorm ideas for content, business, blogging, finishing my book and ideas for new ones, and simply reflecting on human knowledge that has been left behind over millennia by great minds and is still being created and shared today — albeit, in many different forms than most of us ever imagined, even 15-20 years ago during the twilight of print media.
Hence the title of this first post. I picked up an old paperback copy of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, a short and quite accessible book for those familiar with the prolific psychologist. Rather than sex, ol’ Sigmund decides to take on happiness, our longing for freedom, and the trade off for living in modern “civilization,” where we relinquish much of our personal liberty in order to have a modicum of law and order. First, though, he describes his concept of religion as an “illusion,” and a symptom of a threatened ego that longs for protection of the father and fear of separation from the mother. Despite his negative feelings for religion — and even spirituality — a quote jumped out at me when Freud describes a dear friend of his who believes in God and compared his spirituality to ” an oceanic feeling” that is always with him. Freud describes this sensation further as “a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole.” Interestingly, Freud concludes the first chapter with a comparison of the “oceanic feeling” described by his friend with the sentiments of another associate of his who ascribes to a more Eastern spirituality. Freud seems genuinely perplexed by this “oceanic feeling” that he claims he cannot feel, but speaks of the Eastern variety as described by his other peer in a poetic term that leaves you wondering if this father of modern psychology wishes he could experience this feeling too: “Through the practices of Yoga, by withdrawing from the world, by fixing the attention on bodily functions and the … methods of breathing, one can evoke new sensations and coenaesthesias [general awareness of one’s body] in oneself … regressing to primordial states of mind.”
Reading keeps our intellect and mind sharp and awake. It provides a candle to help illuminate this world we find ourselves in, makes a feel less alone, and can help guide us as we formulate our own ideas. It is important to read opinions that are contrary to your own as well; otherwise, we tend to get stuck in our own little bubble and are never challenged about our own beliefs.
Good content, writing, style, and proofreading are essential for formal writing — this is why you should choose Paradigm Content Solutions for all your content needs. While this blog is pretty informal, we create your messaging according to your exact instructions, and our team is comfortable writing about many industries: education, health, business, sales, marketing, and the non-profit segment are just some areas we love to engage with. You can relax knowing that we are creating the information and content you need, and Paradigm’s team follows strict research, credibility, originality, and quality standards. Any work you order from us will be scanned for plagiarism, originality, and fact-checked. It will also be edited and revised to ensure that it is error-free and adheres to your guidelines. We know that shoddy and poor quality content, whatever the medium, reflects poorly on your business and reputation. Paradigm also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy with our work for any valid reasons, or find any error, we will be glad to edit, revise it immediately, and expedite it back to you for approval. Contact Paradigm today for your content, digital marketing, or editorial needs!
This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.
You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.
Why do this?
Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.
The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.
To help you get started, here are a few questions:
Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
What topics do you think you’ll write about?
Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.
Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.
When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.