Having place. As I passed the Post Office,

Having leftthe buying of the Christmas presents late again, I was walking around one ofthe Shopping Centres in Galway just before Christmas.

While I was there, Inoticed an amount of communication mechanisms taking place. As I passed thePost Office, some people were mailing letters. Further down at the Librarythere were a number of people sitting in front of computers and connected tobroadband. On the seats outside the Library, a group of schoolchildren wereupdating their friends on social media and texting furiously on their mobilephones. As all of this was going on it struck me that the written word hadreturned to us again through advances in modern technology!There was atime when the old-fashioned letter was a very important and coveted source ofinformation. It was particularly so for young people who emigrated from theshores of Ireland and would not return for a very long time, and sometimes notat all. These letters were read and read again until the voices of their lovedones came alive in them and they became a tremendous source of comfort for manygenerations.

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Many of you may still have bundles of these in your attic fromrelatives that may have since passed away. If you get a chance, why not dustthem off and read through them once again, as they can be a tremendous sourceof therapy after such a long time.After awhile, the letters began to be replaced by the telephone. This was an effectivemedium for passing on information but never adequate for passing on emotions,and the majority of conversations were quickly forgotten after the receiver wasreplaced after the call had ended. Thanks to the advances in technology overthe past decades, we now have E-Mail, and the explosion of texting and socialmedia interaction. We are once again challenging people to construct sentencesto carry information and convey emotion.

The written word is back and anymodern technology that promotes this is well worth having. If it helps theyounger generation to construct well-meaning sentences and give their opinions,it will be of major benefit to us all, and also for the continuity ofcivilization as a whole.No matterhow far we expand on the technology front, mankind’s innate desire forexpression in words, painting and sculpture will always remain with us. We haveseen examples of this in our prehistory and later history from the cavepaintings at Lascaux in France, the Egyptian hieroglyphics, ogham stones, andthe painstaking work on the Early Christian manuscripts. There was an opinionsome years ago that newspapers, magazines and books would cease to exist intheir current form and that we would be reading them online.

This will happento an extent but never fully. Books are much more than books, they are atestament, in words, to generations that have since passed out of livingmemory. How could we possibly live without the smell of books, to hold them inour hands, and make notes on them as we happily progress through the pages andchapters.

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