There is no guarantee of preserving anything, but I’ve found myself utilizing pen and paper more, like I’m going “retro.”
I “pen” a lot here, to be sure. I link a lot of stories and commentaries, etc. But, I know it fades. I also know what I put to paper doesn’t have a long shelf life typically as well. I mean… who wants it?
But it is interesting that we’ve come to a place where we think the digital age has made things more permanent, and maybe that’s just not the case.
Before today’s internet, the primary way to preserve something for the ages was to consign it to writing—first on stone, then parchment, then papyrus, then 20-pound acid-free paper, then a tape drive, floppy disk, or hard-drive platter—and store the result in a temple or library: a building designed to guard it against rot, theft, war, and natural disaster. This approach has facilitated preservation of some material for thousands of years. Ideally, there would be multiple identical copies stored in multiple libraries, so the failure of one storehouse wouldn’t extinguish the knowledge within. And in rare instances in which a document was surreptitiously altered, it could be compared against copies elsewhere to detect and correct the change.
These buildings didn’t run themselves, and they weren’t mere warehouses. They were staffed with clergy and then librarians, who fostered a culture of preservation and its many elaborate practices, so precious documents would be both safeguarded and made accessible at scale—certainly physically, and, as important, through careful indexing, so an inquiring mind could be paired with whatever a library had that might slake that thirst.
I have so little worth saying and what I do take to paper has no need to be kept past the limited use I’ve given it. But for other works, for other people, I’m thankful for their time to get things on paper and find ways to store it, then for others to follow and keep it preserved.