“Inordinate Hope Was Followed By An Excessive Depression”

by | Nov 1, 2007


Richard Ziade at Basement.org points to a message board post about file-sharing from Will Sheff, the front man for the rock band Okkervil River.

My real concerns with file-sharing are primarily aesthetic.

There’s a story by Jorge Luís Borges called “The Library of Babel.” It describes a fantastical library composed of an apparently infinite number of identical rooms. Each room contains 1,050 books. Printed on the pages are words whose lettering and order are apparently random. Because the library is complete, among the gibberish it also contains every book that is possible, every book that could ever be written. It also contains every imaginable variation of every book possible, whether that variation is off by thousands of letters or by a single comma. Borges adds that it must contain, somewhere, a book that explains the meaning and origin of the library itself – just as it contains thousands of variations of that book, true and false. He writes, “When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure…As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression.”

The Internet – with its glut not only of information but of misinformation, and of information that is only slightly correct, or only slightly incorrect – fills me with this same weird mixture of happiness and depression. I sometimes feel drowned in information, deadened by it. How many hundreds of bored hours have you spent mechanically poring through web pages not knowing what you’re looking for, or knowing what you’re looking for but not feeling satisfied when you find it? You hunger but you’re not filled. Everything is freely available on the Internet, and is accordingly made inestimably valuable and utterly value-less.

Damn, a rock star made from brains. Who knew?

According to Wikipedia, Sheff was an English major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota (which explains a lot).

To read more of his writings, visit this Jound.com page.