The chapters of The Fifth Book of Peace are titled Fire, Paper, Water, and Earth. This, of course, sets up an analogy of paper with air. Which I can relate to, but after thinking about it, it’s either a bit too specific or a bit too general for me.

Words = Air: sure, I can get behind that. But the words I’m writing now aren’t on paper: they’re on a computer. And I don’t necessarily mind reading words on a computer, either: I’d just as soon read an article online as on a computer.

If we make the paper more specific rather than less, I also like Books = Air: one of the determining factors of my last two choices of residence was how many blank walls they had, so we could find places for our bookshelves (and places to add more). Now that I think about it, I rather prefer equating air with books over equating it with words, though I’m having a hard time articulating just why. Maybe it’s because I haven’t spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to actively work with words: I did go through a phase around eighth grade when I was trying to become a writer, but I’ve spent as much or more time working with mathematical concepts, programming, playing music, or trying to understand and improve power relations. So words don’t really stand out in my creative activities. But when it comes to consumption, books have played a much larger role in my life.

I, however, am not Maxine Hong Kingston: she does spend time crafting words. And, again unlike me, she spends time actually crafting words on paper; the thought of doing significant amounts of writing on paper makes my hands cramp. (And I have horrible writing, but am a fast typist. Which doesn’t make my hands cramp as long as I don’t overdo it; mouse usage, however, is another story…)

Editing, though, I do like to do on paper. Which sets up a bit of a disconnect, because I’d just as soon avoid having to print out what I’m working on; perhaps not coincidentally, the Tablet PC was the only Microsoft product that I can think of that has particularly excited me. Not that I’ve used one, but I’m sure that there are UI advances to be had there; and my DS experiences have shown me that I was underestimating the new elements that a touch screen can bring to your experience. Maybe when Apple comes out with something like that, and when display technology has taken another few jumps, I’ll get one…

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