A Tale of Two Ceremonies

I’m not very good at this whole post-a-week thing, am I?

Sorry, folks – this week was Convocation. Here’s a picture of me, looking fierce right before I went on stage to get my diploma.

Clearly, I take Convocation very seriously.

So you didn’t feel completely post-deprived, I decided to write a quick response to an article I was sent this week: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/06/02/a-u-s-ambassador-was-just-sworn-in-on-a-kindle

Yes, you read that correctly. “A U.S. ambassador was just sworn in on a Kindle.”

“But that’s not the only time a digital device has replaced its dead-tree predecessor,” the article reads. “In February, New Jersey firefighters were sworn in on an iPad edition of the Bible when nobody could find a version in print. The month before, a Long Island official did the same.” Dead-tree predecessor? Excuse me while I gag.

It’s not that I have anything against Kindles, or e-readers in general. I think they’re neat. My boss has an iPad that am often jealous of. This article – and this swearing-in-on-a-Kindle-thing – bothered me because swearing an oath on a book is a symbolic gesture. A physical book, even a raunchy choose-your-own-adventure erotica novel, exudes a sense of authority that I don’t think e-readers have earned quite yet. Sure, you can read the King James Version on your Kindle, but there’s a reason that your pastor reads from a hard copy during the Sunday service.

Whether or not this is actually the case, physical books also exude a sense of permanency that e-books just don’t have. Sure, we all know how difficult it can be to get a bad photo or nasty comment off of Facebook, but it’s surprisingly not that difficult to lose an e-book. Remember when Amazon erased a bunch of Kindle readers’ copies of Orwell, Rand, and Rowling? Certainly people can lose physical books, but there’s a difference between misplacing a book and having a book completely erased.

Swearing an oath is a symbolic act. What people choose to swear their oaths on is a reflection of what we as a collective view as authoritative and permanent. Maybe one day we can swear oaths on Kindles or MacBooks or even rolls of toilet paper with writing on them, but that day has not yet come. Physical books are still thriving and, as I mentioned in last week’s post, are taking on new forms that make them increasingly more treasured.

Sorry, Kindle. I’m sure you’ll have your time in the spotlight (like I had my time at my Convocation!), but you’re going to have to wait your turn.

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