Folly Beach: An Excerpt

by Steven Harvey

Secretly, I love Wikipedia—a sad admission for a college professor to make, but heck, I’m no longer a professor. Wikipedia describes itself as “The Free Encyclopedia” that is “the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web,” but that is not why I love it. It is open sourced, meaning that those “who access the site can edit most of its articles,” but that is not why I love it either.

My love for the site has nothing to do with its accuracy which approaches that of the world’s great encyclopedias such as the Britannica, nor do I begrudge it the occasional inaccuracy such as the intentional insertion of false material on John Seigenthaler in May 2005 which created a scandal. I don’t confuse Wikipedia, or any encyclopedia, with peer-reviewed scholarly journals. I know it’s not definitive—it doesn’t pretend to be—and I’m glad it is not a scholarly journal.

The entries are not necessarily written by experts but by those who are passionate about their subjects and they are corrected by its readers, a concept that I like very much, but that is not why I love Wikipedia.

No, there’s something else. I walk out to the Crow’s Nest alone on a clear night and see the stars spangle the black sky of an expanding universe and the moonlight spill my way like glittering silverware across a wide ocean curved at the faintly lit horizon. The edges moving toward me and away from me keep remaking themselves. The ocean pounds the shore, but the tides reach their level simply by finding it, as the wave sweeps across the sand, changing all that it touches.

It is the groping nature of Wikipedia that lures me in. It’s itchiness. The ambition to map out a pattern bigger than any of us can understand. That is what I love about Wikipedia. About all of Cyberspace. Its lack of definition. The way it forever resists having the last word.

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The last word, yes. That’s the matter.