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a blog by Chris Barrow

The Power of the Hand-Written Word

I took a day off work yesterday to visit The Imperial War Museum with best friend Dr. Tim Thackrah.

It’s a thing we do, meeting 3 or 4 times a year to visit a famous London landmark or museum and inevitably talking shop and life on the way around.

It seems rather flippant to say it, but we “did” The First World War in the morning and The Holocaust in the afternoon.

In as much as one can attempt to squeeze the enormity of those two events into just a few hours, they were a sobering reminder of the carnage of conflict and man’s inhumanity to man.

OK – not the chirpiest start to your day; I apologise.

One of my biggest take-aways from the day was the opportunity to read the hand-written diaries of those involved in each of these 20th Century tragedies.

There is something primeval about reading, at first hand, the daily musings of a nurse serving behind the front lines in Belgium, or a young girl trying to understand the cruelty of former classmates.

In both cases, a sense of being connected to these individuals for just a fraction of a second, attempting to appreciate what they might have been feeling.

The reason that prompts me to type these observations is precisely because of what I’m doing – typing – onto a digital platform.

I wonder whether, in 75 or 105 years from now, museums will carry exhibits of the online recollections of present day diarists and bloggers recounting their experiences of both mundane and life-changing events?

Whether those visiting will have the same sense of connection, at the most basic level, with the original authors?

Will digital stand the test of time in the same way that a pocket notebook can connect us with our ancestors?

That, by the way, is why I keep a hand-written diary, completed daily (along with my Full Focus Planner) before I begin my digital morning routine.

I don’t live through times as traumatic as those whose thoughts I read yesterday (thank goodness) and I don’t know whether anyone will ever be interested in my life in years to come.

But the discipline of 15 minutes handwriting every morning is something that facilitates a catharsis on the pervious day’s events and reminds me of my physical presence in a digital world.

My thoughts may end up as lost as all the digital output that drowns us.

Then again, maybe not.

A final acknowledgement of the brutality of war, the triumph of humanity and the blessings we enjoy.

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