At some point in history, words were spoken that were so profound, so rich in meaning, that the printed word was invented in order to record them for posterity. Books were written to capture words of beauty and import. Thoughts themselves, those nebulous creations of consciousness, were given form, brought into the physical world from the secret depths of the human mind and soul. Not every idea, not every string of words was given such distinction. Only those which gave most meaning and joy to those who heard them. The words and ideas were painstakingly imprinted by hand onto paper, which was then stored in the sacred halls of learning, there to be studied, recited, memorized, passed along to future generations. Thus was culture established, thus was our knowledge of ourselves increased, our memory less subject to failing.
The invention of the printing press made it possible to pass such words and ideas to more people. Now each home could have within it the knowledge passed down, now a common laborer could sit and have a conversation across centuries with the likes of Plato or Lao Tzu. Until printing made books so available, even words of less beauty and import were placed into books and disseminated to all.
Finally came the digital age, where the books of millions are available to the billions. Stored electronically rather than on paper, there is now little that is out of reach of the average human. But in the process, words once again became ephemeral, lost their physicality and prominence. No idea, no reflection, observation, or essay was given the dignity and accord that books are capable of bestowing. Each thought became but a drip in a vast ocean of thoughts and words, recorded forever within a library so vast that it conceals that which it wishes to preserve. It is a complete egalitarian system where every expressed thought is equal to every other, the only exception being when money elevates one above another. And money does not seek to raise up the wisdom of the ages but the newest product on the market. The wisdom of ages is mere flotsam and jetsam on a river of the new and marketable. So that Sophocles is buried under E.L. James. Martin Luther King Jr. has equal time on Facebook with your Uncle Leo.
Is this what happened to the Library of Alexandria? Did it become so large and cluttered that the books it was founded to hold got lost in the shuffle? And if so, were they not right to burn it down?