A few years back, I had dinner with a friend who's about my age. She ordered a cup of Earl Grey tea – when the waitress left I grinned, deepened my voice, and said, "Earl Grey, haut!
" (And by the way, urlgreyhot
has to be one of the coolest blog titles.) My friend looked at me as if I'd just had a Tourette's episode. I explained, "Jean Luc." Blank face. "Picard..." Frown. "The Next Generation!" She still looked perplexed and I was completely flummoxed. After considerable awkwardness, we realized the problem: she didn't watch television. (Or, if you'd rather: I did.)
Although it's hard to pick a favorite episode from TNG, I think "Darmok"
must be mine because I'm reminded of it so often.
For example, I miss a good percentage of the jokes where I work because I don't know every line from Office Space
. I had been missing a great deal more, until I finally devoted a couple of hours to my cultural literacy and watched it on tape.
Like the Tamarians in "Darmok", we've been using literary references as a communication basis and shorthand for generations. But now that new technologies are speeding up the creation of literary sources, we lurch between the importance of remembering the past or encouraging the new – and the burden of striking a reasonable balance is conversely held by older and younger citizens. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy
gives us a sense of how heavy that burden is for anyone who wants to be "an active citizen in our multicultural democracy."
The good news is that, as you can see, hypertext is a step in the right direction :-)