“You make me lonely for someone to describe me thus.” ~ Alan Rickman’s King Louise XIV character in the 2014 film, A Little Chaos
Victorian England is an era that has and continues to fascinate me. Actually, there are many times past that captivate me. And, I know that I am not alone. There are countless recently produced films and novels depicting such bygone eras, not to mention science fiction works featuring time travel back and forward to every historic and future time period. We are obsessed with both the past and future; times that remain much a mystery, despite what we do know, and times that have not yet come to pass. What we don’t know intrigues us.
The topic of eras, however, not specifically anyway, is not what I am inspired to write about at this time. Instead, it is the language, or composition of words rather, which drew me to this particular phrase, spoken in the commanding, resonating and unmistakeable timbre of the late Alan Rickman. And, subsequently drew me to think about a time when language was [seemingly] so gloriously, melodiously and carefully crafted, as it were.
The film I quote, A Little Chaos, I did not actually watch. I walked into a room and heard that phrase, I drew a quick breath, exhaled a heavy sigh, and thought, oh, how lovely it must have been to communicate in such an eloquent and poetic fashion. And, how lazy we [and I] are now in our verbal practice of communication.
I both started and stopped watching the depiction of Victorian life in A Little Chaos then and there, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I mean, not obsessively. I work, I eat, I sleep and generally, live a normal, busy life. But, it still left a lasting impression.
While I would love to imagine a time, one that has passed or has yet to come, when such lovely prose would weave its way through everyday speak, I remembered that the way in which we know such historical times are through extraordinary, lasting literature and written accounts.
Until the advent of sound recording devices that could play back in the late 1800s [the mechanical phonograph cylinder, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877], our interpretation of ‘language’ relies solely on the written words of poets, authors, leaders, philosophers, scientists, journalists and other such influentials whose works were and are remarkable enough to stand the test of time.
Therefore, if it weren’t for the live-action, everything-caught-on-video-in-the-moment social media, television, radio obsessed society of today, where nothing really ever disappears in the everlasting-black-hole-vortex-of-the-internet-and-YouTube, one hundred years from now, we might be portrayed in the future as casually speaking in a manner such as Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, Sigmund Freud, Nikola Tesla, Gloria Steinem or other extraordinary post-Victorian era notables might. Hardly the colloquial banter spoken every day by us regular, respectable and intelligent folk, i.e. pretty much how everyone on the planet does.
We can’t be faulted for selection bias. It’s human nature. We remember and recall, well, the remarkable. And, sometimes those notorious for less than favorable, sometimes spectacularly horrible, reasons. Until most recent history, what we portray is what we believe or imagine, based on the incredible written accounts recorded by and about extraordinary human beings.
Instead of theoretical speculation of our language, future generations will be able to emulate, from the high-definition-glory-of-4K-and-3D-video, not only that of the infinitely wise, eloquent, beautiful and genius, but that of, well, those who are not.
As I write this, I hear another unmistakeable voice in the background. The first 2016 US Presidential Debate is airing live and streams via satellite, likely being heard across the globe. Another video that will exist forever. I draw a quick breath and exhale a heavy sigh for an entire other reason. Anyway, in the future, ‘on fleek’, ‘yolo’, ‘bae’, ‘wtf’, ‘squad’, ‘basic’ and other such 21st century-isms might permeate the portrayal of our time.
I hope that, in future times, we shan’t be remembered as thus.