Open Borders is an online content collective that features original writing and thought. Our editors welcome competent submissions in a variety of categories, including but not limited to: Essays & Criticism, Poetry & Fiction, Reviews & Commentary, and Miscellaneous Musings. Please feel free to browse our site and comment on anything you find noteworthy. To submit content, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. While there are no specific restrictions on the style or content of submissions, our editors reserve the right to edit material for usage, punctuation, and length when necessary. Original authors are always given the final authority over the modified version prior to publication.
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
The Open Borders Motivation
Our ethos is based upon a simple contention: literature and writing have a fundamental communicative function. The earliest literature in nearly every human culture emerged from oral storytelling. Whether sacred myth or nationalistic epic, such tales, transmitted publicly to all who would listen, bound people together in shared narratives, enriched ordinary language with figurative tropes and wordplay, and in their simplest, most essential function, entertained an eager and receptive audience. Literature still has most of those basic functions, of course, but all have become decidedly less public, less communal, and increasingly relegated to private, solitary (and sedentary) experience. For national unity, we have a loosely adhered to and widely contentious “canon,” most readily observable in high school reading lists and some university-level core requirements (at those institutions which still enforce them). No one, however, seems ready to agree or avow publicly a specific set of constituent texts in such curricula. To do so, it seems, would be elitist, sexist, and perhaps, racist.
As for the enrichment of the language, yes, printed literature still manages to enshrine and ennoble the range and color of our complex and ever-changing language. But any cursory browsing of the New York Times bestselling contenders reveals much disagreement, indeed much disappointment, regarding the state of the language itself. Postmodern literature seems to glory in its self-conscious lack of clarity, lack of precision, and lack of organization – all sacred cows of the old fussy elite. And finally, for entertainment, certainly some of us still choose books to amuse ourselves with. But barring a public reading at one’s local independent bookstore or a self-initiated book discussion group, most reading is done in seclusion and silence. Gone are the days when educated and uneducated alike gathered in multigenerational groups for an oral reading of the latest poetry or serialized novel, much less a drawing room comedy whose roles might be divided and shared to pass an evening.
It’s a cliché that technology makes a larger world smaller, connects people in ways unimaginable to previous generations, and allows for wider and wider networks of communication, rapid response, and immediate contactability. Still, these matrixes are fraught with ironies that, depending on one’s tastes, either strengthen or weaken the quality and content of communication. Take for example, the wonderful connectivity that cell phones provide. The hours spent catching up with friends and family while sitting in traffic may have provided, in a bygone age, an opportunity to engage a stranger in conversation on a bus, train, or tram ride through the city. In a less distant era, the garrulous chatter spilled into hands-free receivers while we scan the cereal aisle may have been reserved for a shelf stocker or a fellow shopper. Interactive websites, chat rooms, and instant messaging technology all create myriad opportunities for reducing distance or inconvenience in interpersonal discourse, but they also consume those same hours that once might have been spent in conversation over dinner, writing letters, or listening to a radio play together as a family.
All of these observations may sound like the usual antiquarian’s complaints about a hypermodern society thoroughly mediated by machines rather than simple, analog connections between people and objects. But undoubtedly, such elegies – and we concede that is what they are – also serve as reminders that expanding technological capabilities don’t come to us cost free. We lose something along the way, an indefinable something whose absence we mourn. Fortunately, we live in a day in which one need not choose between the stubborn austerity of the Luddite and the noble silence of the snob. Instead, we can try contribute to the media saturation in ways that seek to restore, or at least ameliorate the weaknesses of, our beleaguered art of conversation.
To that end, Open Borders attempts to co-opt modern technology in order to serve a very old-fashioned goal: to bring people together through the basic exchange of ideas and sentences. We harbor no illusions about regaining the purity of a fireside chat, or channeling the superhuman narrative power of a Homeric rhapsode, or combating the isolation and increasing distance between people that are the concomitant products of our technology-dependant lifestyles. We simply hope that Open Borders may serve as a small antidote to the sometimes overwhelming onslaught of information without intimacy, the bane of the Internet age.