“With the control of information and memory brought about by writing and, more intensely, by print, you do not need a hero in the old sense to mobilize knowledge in story form. The situation has nothing to do with a putative ‘loss of ideals’.” p.70
The weight of this observation is enormous. Most of my life, I have read about the modern tendency in narrative away from what Ong calls the “heavy character.” Most authors and commentators describe this drift as a symptom of the erosion of defined standards of ideal behavior. It is refreshing to hear a very credible explanation for the phenomena that does not color the present as a degraded state of affairs, lacking the purity of the past.
Other concepts and quotes that I latched on to:
“Winged words” as Homer called them (p.76), words that when written down, have the power to be objective and disconnected from physical time and place. A sound exists only as it’s made, while printed words stay in existence always.
“What can I say about my own heart? How can I talk about my character? Ask others; they can tell you about me. I myself can’t say anything.” p.54
I was annoyed by some of the anthropological studies Ong cites in Chapter 3. I found it somewhat abusive of illiterates – particularly the part the study where illiterates were asked to answer SAT-style logic and analogy questions.