muse Recalls the Five Stages of Grief

The death of Print has been a sad, difficult time for us all. Throughout history, no other human invention quite achieved the capacity to manufacture information in the form of physical pages with ink-stamped symbols as did Print. Having served us well for more than half a millennium, the loss of this great, archaic methodology left many of us not only alone, but scared and pathetic.

For this reason, and to show that we’re not bitter, muse presents a public service for the mental health of the community. In such times of loss, the Kübler-Ross model–commonly referred to as “The Five Stages of Grief”–is often invoked, and with good reason: the system maps out the emotions associated with grief, allowing us to plan for upcoming hurdles or acknowledge past weaknesses. Many of you have already fully assimilated into the world of digital reading; for those of you who have not, consider this a guide for dealing with whatever stage of grief is up next on your schedule.

1. The first stage of grief is denial, as in “No way Print’s going out of style—e-readers take all the charm out of reading!” Denial is not only the most humiliating of the stages, but also the funniest to watch, likely because it reminds us of children, Pinocchio and alcoholics. A few short years ago, projected demand for tablets and e-readers was, to grievers in denial, negligible.

“The fad will pass,” they chuckled nervously. “Nobody wants to curl up with a screen.”

The pretense was actually kind of cute, or perhaps would have been if it wasn’t so revolting. Too innocent and naïve for their own good, deniers saw bound and printed books as magical. Traditional books were made of the earth, and somehow, every last mass-produced copy of every New York Times best-seller felt like a personal love letter from the author. The very idea of turning their noses up to these precious relics in favor of soulless, brittle technology was absurd to the denier.

“Hahaha!” they scoffed. “Everyone knows that ‘real’ books will win out…”

They went on and on about the sensory pleasures of curling up with a book in front of a fire, stroking the spine, smelling the yellowing paper and feeling the grain of the pages between their thumbs and forefingers while turning them wistfully. How embarrassing. All that book-fondling was starting to sound like a whole other kind of bibliophilia.

2. The second stage of grief, anger, occurs when the individual realizes that his problem cannot be wished away. Even cool-headed bookworms were prone to inappropriate outbursts in the months following the death of Print.

“How can this actually be catching on?” they demanded as Kindle sales shot through the roof. “How can anyone be fooled into replacing their cumbersome horde of seldom-read tomes with a sleek, portable device that can retrieve and harbor more readable knowledge and entertainment than anyone could hope to absorb in a single lifetime? This is an outrage!” Forced to watch helplessly as Print bobbled coughing and gurgling beneath the icy froth that would eventually envelope it, rage was the only refuge.

In time, entire communities were torn apart due to the volatile nature of the anger stage. Husbands came home to find their wives reading books on Nooks. Teachers discovered in horror that their students were reading their assigned material on iPhones. The graffitied phrase “Tablets and e-readers SUCK” began popping up in bathrooms and overpasses all over the world. Solidarity itself was on thin ice.

3. After innumerable arrests and the rebuilding of some basic governmental agencies, people started to cool down a little. It was in this stage, bargaining, that people saw that maybe they had overreacted a bit. They began to accept that digital literature was here to stay, but they weren’t ready to accept the notion wholesale.

“We’re not ready to accept the notion wholesale!” cried the bargaining masses.

“We’re still keeping our favorites!” they negotiated.

“I’m only going to buy the cheap tablet…for traveling!” they reasoned.

Before they knew it, they had bargained away the very ideology they had clung to for so long. The convenience of these new-fangled “books” had over-turned their idols, forever shattering their ill-conceived biases. Bargainers still adored their old books out of some fading sense of nostalgia, but as time pressed on, the good name of Print was being forgotten. As it turned out, it was the content of the books that was special all along, not the associated “thrills” of touching and flipping and closing and opening. Books were never made of magic; they were made of dead trees.

4. Depression hits hard. “Say it isn’t so! Surely there’s still some magic in the world that isn’t locked away in LED screens, hard-drives and circuit boards? What’s the point of a material life when everything physical is being transferred to digital?”

So inquired those trapped in the fourth stage of grief. After all, what was left but to sit and wait for the human race to evolve into an emotionless collective of technologically altered cyborgs? If thousands of books could easily fit into the palms of our hands, wasn’t it just a matter of time before the hive-mind took over, rendering all this emotional posturing obsolete? Was there any place for art anymore? Passion? Love? Humanity?

No. No, there wasn’t. There was room only for despair, pain and half-empty glasses of water. “Doomed to Assimilate” became the trending slogan for depressed grievers, although they barely knew what they were grieving over anymore.

5. Worry not, mourner of Print, for after the terror of depression comes the warm but hollow comfort of acceptance.

At first, acceptance sounds a little like a pissed-off adult who has not yet reconciled with his first divorce, as in “Well, it’s not gonna get any better, so I may as well accept my fate,” but this is only a preliminary sub-stage. Over time, the depressed undertone will erode until there is nothing left but the tedious logician you swore to God you’d never become, and you’ll love every minute of it. Resignation only looks bad from the perspective of the woefully inexperienced, you’ll see!

Soon, “Nothing beautiful lasts” will become “Y’know, it’s hard to see why I clung so tightly to this dusty old shelfware in the first place.” “I miss reading an actual paper over my morning coffee” will become “Look, honey, an app for the National Enquirer!”

Consider your abandonment of antiquated idealism a badge of honor. Wear it like the noble worker bee, bereft of identity, wears his glassy-eyed stare. Who said life was supposed to be fair?

Congratulations. You have now moved on.

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