The last fold: a eulogy for paper

Paper. Shame on us, we have taken it for granted.

Consoled by the salvation of forests the size of Wales no longer needing to be razed to the ground for our month-end reports, we have been willing upon ourselves the paperless office for several decades. We drool over collaborative tools and apps, on-screen mark-ups, a global huddle around a virtual serviette. Anything at all that rids us of the espato curse.

When the Berlin Wall was being dismantled I was in Athens, and visited a dusty newspaper stand every night after 11pm to get my Guardian International. It was my only way to stay in touch with the most incredible unfolding events, and brought many of us onto the streets, where we talked. Unfolding – we even talk in paper metaphors.

Whatever will we do without it?

The thunder and pulse of the printing press. The sensory overload that is paper. The broken innocence of a new book, the first touch, the creaking spine and smell of spirit, the warmth and brilliance of the white pages. Only paper smells and feels like paper. When will an iPad have an olfactory app?

The thud of pages on a table, slammed in disgust – or gently placed, obsessively aligned, a hand slowly placed atop with thoughtful assurance, a buzzing humming time bomb. Pure, staple-bound power.

The complex interaction – flicking, skimming, selecting, having to frantically recall where you read the lines you now need. Having to work with the paper, no hyperlinks sewing the pages together, only your intervention, your memory, your attention. By all our admissions, our focus has been fractured by the instant gratification of social media.

And there is what we add. Notes, mark-ups, scribble, sketches, doodles that captured our mood, our inspiration, invention, the tiny dynamite of eureka. Perhaps even the smudge of a teardrop. Our arcane symbols, personal code, clues to another sheaf in time.

Who can forget the curse of the paper cut, and the spat curse? Paper has left scars in our lives and on centuries, drawn emotion and blood. It has punctured history like nothing else – Chamberlain waving his “note” believing war had been averted, or the Ems telegram intended to ignite it.

A blank piece of paper – a channel to so much possibility. The perfect dawn. As with the day itself, don’t wish it away.


3 thoughts on “The last fold: a eulogy for paper

  1. Poor old paper. I don’t think it’ll go away though. It’s just that we have a richer variety if choices. Maybe we’ll even come to appreciate it even more in the future, as it becomes less common.

Leave a Reply