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Index Cards and Shadows of Former Glory
Modern index cards are a microcosm of our culture, wearing the name of something greater than itself like a misshapen skin suit.
I ran out of index cards.
This might not seen like a big deal, but I use them to take notes from what I read. Not having index cards gums up the machine of my routine. I thought I had plenty. I had just purchased a brand new pack from Office Depot and it said “index cards” on the package.
Little did I know they were lying to me. Upon opening them, they felt like nothing more than cut up scraps of paper. These were not really index cards.
Index cards should emphasize the latter word in their title: card. They should be made of noticeable card stock. Not second-rate printer paper. Cutting up paper into 3x5 or 4x6 rectangles and printing some blue lines on them does not make something an index card, just like putting on a wig and cutting off your genitals doesn’t make someone a woman.
It turns out, there are plenty of other people like me who are in this predicament and who fill Amazon.com reviews with vindictives against the sorry state of modern index “cards.” They just don’t make them like they used to. In order to keep costs low, the makers focus on what they think is the essential function, the MVP (minimum viable product) version of an index card.
But an MVP is supposed to be the first step toward something better, not the final destination. Durability matters. The feel of the cards as you flip them in your fingers matters. The resistance the card gives as you move the pen across it matters. Aesthetics matter. Beauty matters. Craftmanship matters.
Modern index cards are just another microcosm of so much of our culture. Something that, at first glance, appears the same and will still perform its basic function. Barely. But it doesn’t perform up to its promise. It doesn’t excel. It will perform its function as a shadow of the predecessor that wore the same name, long ago. Everyone knows something is missing, even though they are forced to admit they are getting by.
We have institutions that wear the name “school” but can’t even promise that students will learn how to read. Many of them look the same and go through some of the same motions. But they are a shadow.
We have a Lord of the Rings TV show that isn’t really Lord of the Rings. It has nothing of Tolkien’s moral vision or worldbuilding, even though it uses the same names. It is a shadow.
We have virtues being replaced by political slogans. People think they are virtuous because they believe the correct position on something they know nothing about, though they live by fear and envy. They are shadows of men.
We have a CDC that is more interested in controlling people then controlling disease. Controlling people sort of looks like attempting to control disease if you squint hard enough. The agency makes many decisions based on political pressure and not evidence. It is a shadow.
We have neighborhoods where no one knows their neighbors. Churches with no shepherds. Marriages that fall apart at the first sign of struggle. Women who shower their love on pets instead of children. Men who use their strength to conquer video games instead of the world. All shadows. Like paper pretending to be an index card, these all fulfill their functions, at the bare minimum, based on the momentum of days long gone.
For those interested in my plight, I eventually ran to Staples and picked up some more of their store-brand, heavyweight 4×6 index cards. Did you catch that? They now have to add the adjective heavyweight to cover for the deflation of what index cards used to mean. They’re still not as good as what your grandmother used to write recipes on, but they at least remember a bit more of the strength of their ancestors.
People are craving things that combine form and function with beauty. They know they are missing something even if they can’t articulate it. Whoever learns replace a shadow with something real, something tangible, something incarnate, even if its something small, will be doing a great service indeed.
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