If I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a typewriter it might happen that my screed made an intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum. The chance of their doing so is decidedly more favourable than the chance of the molecules returning to one half of the vessel. – Sir Arthur Eddington, 1927
The above quote has ben stated in different ways over time. The quote might be more familiar if it were paraphrased like this: If you put a hundred monkeys in a room with a typewriter, you’d come up with Shakespeare.
Yesterday, I couldn’t find my plot notes. I looked everywhere and, since I’m in the middle of a move, nothing was (is) where it should be. I was petrified. What if I couldn’t find them? Can I recreate the story from memory? Would I remember important changes I had made?
I did find my notes in my file cabinet I use for important documents like taxes and birth certificates. Those papers certainly are important so it makes sense I would hide them there – I knew they would be safe. I am now in the process of translating them into my computer where they should – hopefully – be safe. But just in case, I will keep the paper! You never know…
But what that fear invoked was interesting. The monkey quote above would seem to say that eventually I should be able to reproduce them. However, it brought to mind a completely different question. Suppose a hundred monkeys do write a Shakespearean sonnet – does it mean anything? Letters make up words which make up stories, but do those stories mean anything if they are not written with purpose? Even if they end up with the same result: the same story, the same characters, the same plot twists, and all the same endings, will it still resonate the same?
Words without purpose.
Poetry without background.
Imagery of just black.
It all seems like such a waste. Poetry would mean nothing if there was not feeling written behind it. The tragedy of two lovers who are torn apart due to terrible circumstances means nothing without the author caring about them behind it, sobbing as she writes the awful scene. If he feels nothing, if she cares for nothing…then it is all for nothing.
Words are a powerful tool but they must be said with meaning and purpose behind them or they stand for nothing.