Change—Remorseless Change

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IN THE MID-1860s, just before leaving on a trip to revisit his childhood home, Mark Twain wrote:

“I shall share the fate of many another longing exile who wanders back to his early home to find gray hairs where he expected youth, graves where he looked for firesides, grief where he had pictured joy—everywhere change! remorseless change where he had heedlessly dreamed that desolating Time had stood still!”

Despite his lamentation about “remorseless change,” in 1874 Twain was among the first customers for a brand-new invention produced that year by the Remington Company—a machine that would radically change communication for over 100 years—the typewriter.

On December 9, 1874, Mark Twain typed this letter to William Dean Howells (Twain’s original spelling preserved):

“You needn’t answer this; I am only practicing to get three; anothe slip-up there; only practici?ng ti get the hang of the thing. I notice I miss fire & get in a good many unnecessary letters & punctuation marks. I am simply using you for a target to bang at. Blame my cats, but this thing requires genius in order to work it just right.”

This was actually Twain’s second letter that day. Earlier he’d written a more friendly one to his brother Orion, but by the time he got to writing Howells, he was apparently growing a little cranky.

In fact, three months later, when the Remington Company contacted him about endorsing the machine he had bought, he confessed he had stopped using it, claiming that it was ruining his morals because it made him want to swear. Though he had originally paid $125 for the typewriter, he traded it for a $12 saddle.

Change is inevitable. Once the typewriter had revolutionized communication, businesses had a decision to make: stubbornly cling to the old—handwritten documents—and fail, or move forward with the new “technology” and stay current with the times.

Today, typewriters are found primarily in museums or in the hands of nostalgic collectors. New revolutions have overtaken the realm of human communication: the computer, the Internet, satellites, wireless devices. Touchscreens are at least partly replacing keyboards. And soon enough, perhaps, all input will move to voice recognition.

Change—remorseless change. Resist or embrace it—but none of us can escape it.

Personally, though I miss many good parts of the past, I welcome certain changes:

  • “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”—2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV.
  • “But we all . . . beholding . . . are changed”—2 Corinthians 3:18.
  • “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”—Romans 12:2.
  • And finally: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth…behold, I make all things new”—Revelation 21:1, 5, NKJV.
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