An unknown typesetter influenced how we set up dummy text for half a millennium! For anyone setting up a blog, you discover that the concept has weaseled its way from the hard world of printing presses and moveable type into the is-it-really-there world of digerata.
You might do the same some day — have an effect last long after your years here — even if inadvertently, as this individual surely did in the 1500s.
Think of this — this person, probably a man– who in his day was known for his ink-stained hands, his hunched-over physique, his owlish eyes, his family, his quiet ways maybe . . . all the grand things that make up a life. A wife, children, some who died, hearty friends, an enemy or two . . . and his quest for an easier way in his humble job led him to the innovation of dummy type blocks — so you could test the layout before committing to the hard work of making the real text fit.
Could he have even once had a flit of an idea that entire species woud perish before his innovation would? His new thing may yet live on into the next publishing revolution (and the next).
Do your best! No one knows in advance the legacy of an innovation. The wheel is yet with us, and so is courtesy. Every useful improvement begets others.
We live in a sea of inherited innovation, in technology, in language, in culture, in behavior — in everything we are and do and have. Some improvements we can look to a single source — thank you Edison for my ability to write this at night! Most are the long accumulation of human tweak upon tweak, over thousands of years. The building you’re in. The shower you’ll take. The store you’ll shop. The words you’ll read. The phrases you’ll utter. The thoughts you’ll think . . . .
Even the light bulb is that — an accumulation of human genius. Edison didn’t invent glass, nor did he invent filament or gas or metal or any number of other elements he assembled into the light bulb. He put them together the way my son strings together words invented by others — uniquely and to startling effect.
Allow me, in my wonderment, a little profanity
It is an amazing thing to recognize how f**king fortunate we are to be living in this era, with these myriad streams of thought and invention laid upon our banquet table to experience — and we didn’t contribute a damn thing for it. We were born into it.
I’m raising an imagined glass of potent drink. A toast.
Here’s to all the improvers. We live in your wake. Here’s to that unknown typesetter who rearranged some lines by Cicero into garbled Latin-ish dummy type. Innovations live on.
You too might do the same some day, even if inadvertently . . . we’re all making adjustments, innovating small improvements, creating something new by navigating this life. Some ideas spiral outward as others take them up. You never know how yours will be absorbed into humanity’s currents.
Live your best! You are part of the great stream.