Yesterday evening (Sunday 26 November), found me contentedly sitting on the sofa in my living room, reading a recently purchased braille edition of Robert Frost’s “North of Boston”, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3026/3026-h/3026-h.htm. On turning to the final poem in “North of Boston”, which is entitled “Good Hours” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/good-hours, I came across the word profanation.
Being wholly unfamiliar with the word I was keen to ascertain its meaning. I had, however turned off my computer (quite deliberately as I wished to spend the remainder of Sunday evening reading, undisturbed by technology). I do not own a braille dictionary (they are, to my knowledge no longer produced as blind users can access online dictionaries), consequently the only way in which I would have been able to find the definition of profanation would have been by turning on my computer or looking up the word using the search engine on my mobile phone, (both devices are equipped with screen readers which convert text into speech and braille).
To cut a long story short, due to my unwillingness to succumb to the demon of technology, I left my curiosity unsatisfied until this evening (Monday 27 November).
I spend much of my life engaging with technology. My job entails the use of a computer Monday through to Friday, while my poetry is written using a laptop. Consequently I relish time away from electronic gadgetry, hence my disinclination to engage with technology yesterday evening.
I do, of course recognise the value of online reference books. Language is constantly evolving and it is not always convenient to lug a heavy dictionary around with one. However, when writing it is easy to go to one of the many online dictionaries, only to get caught up with online distractions such as webmail, social media etc. Had I the choice, I would not go online while writing but would rely on a good old-fashioned paper dictionary. However given the absence of braille dictionaries (as explained above) I have no option other than to use the internet. I will, however continue to avoid the temptation to go online during my leisure time, while reading for pleasure. We all, in my view benefit when we take a break from the World Wide Web and technology more generally.
Incidentally, for anyone interested in ascertaining the meaning of profanation, Merriam-Webster defines it as follows:
“the act or an instance of profaning”, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/profanation