Meditation on Reading and Writing

by Robert Boedeker

Reading : Writing :: Seeds : Fruit.

The act of reading--

  • forming images in your mind,
  • incorporating them into your internal framework, your mental processes,
  • understanding another person's perspective,
  • connecting with previous ideas,
  • establishing new ideas-

is to the act of writing--

  • printing ideas onto a tangible surface,
  • presenting ideas from your mind,
  • allowing for old thoughts to develop or new thoughts to appear as you print,
  • expressing your inner thoughts and personality-

as the act of seeding--

  • preparing the ground to receive the seed,
  • planting a seed into the ground,
  • nurturing the seed until it grows,
  • waiting for germination-

is to the act of fruition--

  • the growing of fruit from a plant,
  • the developing, the maturing, and the ripening of fruit,
  • the containing of the next generation of seeds,
  • the product of the plants.
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Thoughts during the day:


  • I'm hungry
  • I'm sleepy
  • I'm happy
  • I'm tired of doing my homework*

  • I really like that girl
  • I connected with my friend and that made me happy
  • I miss seeing that other person; I miss her walk
  • I can't get over what he said to me last night; I really need to confront him soon
  • I really, really like that girl
  • I need to talk to that guy, this is persisting--but what do I say?
  • I need to go and see some people, it's been a while since I've hung out with them**

  • I have lots of homework--what do I have to read? Oh yeah, here's where I left off...
  • I have to focus, I have to focus, I have to focus, I...***


Reflections of those thoughts:

*I use the word "I" a lot in my thinking--we are very self-centered in our minds; how interesting to think of someone who isn't self-centered, it's a cultural ideal, to some extent, to not be self-centered, at least too much.

Think about the microcosm in our skulls, the mini-universe we conceive as an abstract structure. Our minds are our worlds; we will never exist apart from them, we will never know another person's mind. We will only know that we exist because we know that we are thinking and processing in our minds. We will only know that the world exists because some of us assume, on faith or whatnot, that there is good enough reason to believe that our senses relay some truth and are somewhat dependable. What a mystery it is how information from the outside world gets to our minds, that abstract realm, and then is processed into us, perhaps initiating responses from the body or changing our emotional/mental/physiological state-we are amazing creations!

All these are definitions of states of being-however, defining by declaring what I'm lacking or longing for; i.e.: what I don't possess or am not, which is not a very good definition.

**Relationships take up a lot of time and space within the mind

The mind is finite, and its processes are limited by the physical world. We cannot think as fast as a computer, we cannot process at the speed of light; we are very limited compared to electricity and light. Our minds tend to be lazy too. We could struggle for days and days on a single issue without having a resolution readily available. We could say to ourselves thousands of times, "I wish this were different in my life" but we might never focus all our mental resources on the problem unless inspired or motivated to. Self-discipline is a key aspect to a healthy and strong mind. Discipline allows you to pull together all your resources and focus on a single issue or idea. It organizes your mind so that the cooperation of your entire mind can be enough to accomplish what you set out to do.

***Very focused-very absorbed in the material. My thoughts are prompted by the thoughts on the page with occasional pauses to make some connections or to refocus my attention. Here self-discipline again would benefit, as it requires determination to reign in a wandering mind. It takes a few times of reading before you can actually grasp what is being read. Refer to Birkerts' Gutenberg Elegies, specifically: "Writing is the monumentally complex operation whereby experience, insight, and imagination are distilled into language; reading is the equally complex operation that disperses these distilled elements into another person's life. The act only begins with the active deciphering of the symbols. It ends (if reading can be said to end at all) where we cannot easily track it, where the atmospheres of self condense into thought and action." (p.96) ______________________________________________________________________________________



The mind is mysterious to me. It's curious how thinking can produce various physical responses in the body. We tend to think of the mind as separate from the body. The mind is intangible, seemingly infinite, abstract whereas the body is concrete, limited, and knowable. Science can tell us what is happening to our bodies down to the tiniest levels, down to the very atoms of our cells. The body can be cut and can bleed, can feel sore and tired, and can possess many emotional states that can be studied empirically. We can witness our bodies with our senses, we can feel our teeth with our tongues, we can hear our hearts beating, and we can see our chest expanding and contracting. We can exercise our bodies, we can make them grow, and we can change our bodies visibly. The body can be dissected, can deteriorate, and can decompose. We can see an end to the body, we can feel the dust of a decaying mummy's skin, and we can contemplate our own body's death. Our bodies exist in the physical and easily knowable world for us.

The mind exists separately from our bodies. When our bodies are impaired, when we lose a limb, when we lose one of our senses, we are still able to think. Our minds are separate from our brains. If our brain has a tumor and is operated upon, if a spike punctures our brain, if part of our brain is removed, we can still think. This makes us think that the mind is very much separated from our bodies. Interestingly, computers are similar to our brains, but computers are not similar to our minds. Both can do arithmetic, both can perform logical functions, both can seem very aware, only the mind can learn, only the mind can alter its 'programming', only the mind can grasp ideas in the abstract. The computer is physical and the mind is abstract. The mind is separate from the body. And yet it isn't.

The mind and the body interact in numerous ways that can't be explained unless there were a connection between the two. If the brain is dead, it is assumed that the mind is dead, depending on what existential view you take. If the brain is removed, the mind ceases to be a presence. When you remove a person's brain, you are left with a vegetable, a carcass, a once-thinking human, demonstrating a link between the two. The most interesting and intriguing link between the body and the mind is the emotional link. There exists a link between the cognitive and emotional aspects of the mind with the body that produces some amazing effects. For example, it has been documented that when a person experiences prolonged depression, the body goes into its own form of depression. If a person is down emotionally, the body responds and likewise gets down by getting fat or atrophying or becoming ill. The same is true in the reverse. If a person is sick or impaired physically, the emotions and thoughts become very negative. Likewise, if a person thinks positively, they usually experience good health, and if they attain good health, they usually attain a positive mental or emotional state. These are broad examples of this connection; however, the link I am more intrigued by is on a smaller scale.

I recently read a pamphlet distributed in the mall by a couple. The pamphlet did not particularly interest me, but when I saw that there were cartoons and some captions inside, I found some motivation to flip through it. It contained anti-homosexual sentiments and was endorsed by a fundamentalist Christian sect. I sat down on a bench and started over from the beginning and carefully read what it had to say. The argument it proposed said practicing homosexuals will go to hell if they do not stop their sinful behavior. The three words that grabbed my attention from the beginning were "God Hates Fags". It later explained exactly why they used each of those words, and it follows what I thought it would, except they use the word "Fags" in the British sense of something that kindles a fire, in this case, the fire of God's hatred. I read it from cover to cover, I even read all the scripture quotes to support their argument.

I have to say, looking from the booklet to the floor, to the booklet again, and then over to the couple, I was enraged. I was passionately engaged in an argument in my mind refuting as best as I could each of the points made in the pamphlet. I was so angry that I was trembling. I wanted to go over to those people and physically confront them for supporting this line of thought. I didn't but I am ashamed to admit I had the thought. I took the pamphlet with the intention of showing it to my friends, to get them equally riled up on my behalf and behalf of homosexuals, but on the way out I threw it away hoping to leave those dark emotions behind me.

Later as I reflected on this experience what surprised me most was not how I behaved but why I behaved that way. I trembled. I flushed. I became very emotional. And all because I read something. I read something. Why would words do anything to me other than make my eyes move as I scanned the page they're on? Why did the words, the letters, the scratches on paper get me so angry? Why did a simple processing of letters into words, of words into sentences, of sentences into thoughts, of thoughts that I made meaningful in my mind, why did these produce such a powerful emotional response? How did my mind, which received the thoughts, tell my body to release the adrenaline? How did the mind even get the thoughts? The mind has no sense organs like the brain does; the eyes are not abstract but the ideas they transmitted to my mind were. It is a fact that one of the most restful things we can do is to read. Our bodies are very relaxed when we read, even more so than during sleep. How can something so passive as reading make my body become so energized and pumped? I can't explain it; Science can't explain it; no one can explain it, but I still want to know what is really going on. What is the mind? How can it do what it does?

If we knew the answers to these questions we would be able to understand so much. We would be able to understand exactly the process of reading and writing. We would be able to understand exactly how we know, how we gain knowledge, how we produce knowledge, how we create new ideas, how our imaginations works, what our dreams are, and so much more. We would be able to finally answer so many of the questions that we've been asking for ages. Socrates would rest peacefully if we could finally know ourselves. Knowing ourselves is so key to our existence, to our daily life, to our smallest tasks, to reading and writing even, but it always eludes our understanding. And still we are curious about it, more so because it is so hard to grasp. This is the human condition showing its paradoxical nature yet again. ______________________________________________________________________________________



I've defined writing as printing ideas onto a tangible surface, presenting ideas from your mind, allowing for old thoughts to develop or new thoughts to appear as you print, and expressing your inner thoughts and personality. As I write these words, what am I really doing? Is this a purely mental process? Is my body doing anything? The more I question, the more questions flow from me...

Was I born with a skill for writing? Is there some biological difference between people with a so-called "aptitude for writing" and people without? Aptitude: an internal, mental, or abstract quality? Is it gained or simply granted or bestowed? Given that there is an inherent inequality in the power of writers in this world, can a person who has little natural ability for writing ever come through hard work and persistence to the level of a "natural writer"?

Inspiration seems to play a role in writers' works. But is inspiration even a present and alive thing? If it is, will it ever happen to me? Can we increase its occurrence in us? More importantly, can we understand it? Is it the crystallization of ideas in our minds, as Robert Pirsig described it? Is it as Birkerts described it, a constant process in our minds that comes forth after a while? Or is it a bubbling to the surface of our minds as the Field Marshall described it? These all seem to describe the same thing, so let's get back to the question-what does inspiration feel like? Would it come to me after I began writing, like in the middle of an essay? Would it come to me before an essay? Is there really anything there to come to me? Do I have the conceptualization of this all wrong? Perhaps it's like trying to decide if God has a white beard or a Buddha's belly, right? Is it like trying to picture God at all? Can we fathom something like this? Is it worth fathoming or worth devoting our time/energy to?

Uh-oh, that sentence ended in a preposition, but shouldn't we be allowed to end sentences with a preposition? If I communicate my ideas effectively, aren't I writing well? Why do we put up with all this grammatical nonsense? Can't we ease off on the strict art of writing? Can't this become more relaxed, like our speech? But our speech has more than just one form of communication attached, built into, and imbedded within it, right? If I write, doesn't the reader only receive my words? And if I talk, doesn't the listener hear my choice of words, my tone of voice, my syntax, and see my facial expressions and body expressions? So we have to conclude that there is some necessity in formalized writing, don't we? Doesn't formalized writing provide rules that give us a base and when we see these rules varied, bent or broken, don't we get more understanding from that?

This exploration is freeing for my mind...am I feeling freer as a writer though? Am I even feeling like a writer? Well, since I'm not feeling like a writer right now, at least in the professional sense or in the capital "w" sense, am I feeling more like a writer in the non-professional sense? Am I feeling more like a reader because of classes? Since we do a lot of reading, wouldn't it seem natural that I would feel more comfortable as a reader? However, since we're reading some difficult stuff and I still struggle with it, doesn't it feel frustrating as a reader?

Have I thousands more questions in my head than space to write them in? Are these questions ever going to be satisfied? Yes.
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Case Study #1--

"Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs." (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, p.73, Andrew Small's copy, Lee Sanders' suggestion)

This quote is completely out of context and I have absolutely no idea what it contributes to the novel. I have equally no idea who was saying it, why, and what their background is to promote something like that to be said. Looking at the sentence, I couldn't tell what it said at first. Looking at it again, running it through my mind, focusing, allowing my mind to center in on it, I finally found some pictures to laugh at. I'm not sure what Ernest was smoking, but it was some pretty heavy stuff. Now Ernest is one of the Greats in writing, and seeing as how I'm not, wouldn't I gain a lot by analyzing his work? Wouldn't I be able to find insights into style, imagery, syntax, or just plain old-fashioned insights into life?

Road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs.

'Hell', why talk about hell? Perhaps Ernest imagined that he could take a moment out of the flow of the story and wax philosophical. Maybe this is his existential view on hell, maybe one he is trying out for size. He might have gotten this idea from someone in a bar or on the street and it started some process in his mind. Maybe he read it. Imagine that Ernest read something about hell being paved with the souls of sinners or whatnot from a religious pamphlet, and this pamphlet made such an impression on him that he absorbed that into his head. Maybe it got him to thinking about the truthfulness of that statement. Instead of the souls of sinners that pave hell, maybe he thought back to his Buddhist days and remembered one of his lamas telling him that hell is paved with the souls of the arrogant or the greedy. (Maybe this lama was the same one who turned him ultimately away from his Buddhist upbringing by being too strict with the whole vegetarian thing. Who knows?) But it is interesting to think that maybe he paced the floor of his house for a few days, perhaps a week, thinking about what hell is really like. (Lee suggests that maybe he just has a good sense of humor. I highly doubt this.) Maybe this whole dog thing came to him in a moment of clarity. Perhaps he hadn't made up his mind about what hell really was like, and maybe his editor gave him an ultimatum that he had to come up with something by four o'clock that afternoon and all he could come up with was this silly dog thing. It's a bit of a stretch. I've never conceived of hell as being paved with unbought stuffed anything. The fact still remains: Ernest heard something about hell once in his life if not immediately before he scribed this sentence, and that influence on him worked its magic until it came out on page 73. The bubbling forth started from something; dare we imagine farther? Not yet.

Let's move on to the dogs. Why dogs? Is it a reference to his cute little pet-I'm gonna work you into one of my novels, Sparky, I'm not sure how but you'll be in there-Is that what Ernest told his faithful Black Labrador? (Dr. Bob suggests it's a reference to God. Again, I highly doubt this.) Another thing, the dogs are unbought. Why did he add this idea? What does unbought have to do with anything? It isn't existential; it isn't insightful. It's capitalistic; it's a detail about value. It's an idea that suggests things about the quality of the dog; perhaps it's a seedy dog, a mangy animal that has a shady past. It could be something completely different. It could be a statement about the dog's availability on a market that has yet to demand his services. He could be about to be bought, but the timing was just off. It could be a statement of affirmation though, that maybe these were the special dogs, the saved dogs, the ones better than the normal dogs. I doubt that though. I think that if something were used to pave a road in hell, it probably wouldn't have super-status. He must have chosen this word because of some need to comment on the status of the dogs, to give a colorful way of describing what he saw within the dark character of the dogs. Perhaps he sought a more creative way of phrasing this idea than he grabbed at first, maybe it took him a while, but finally he settled on this unbought idea and liked it.

Similarly, he must have searched long and hard for the stuffed image. This is a powerful use of language here. He combines some non-traditional images into an effective whole. He made a very complex picture for our minds to grapple with. Dogs, perhaps Setters or Poodles, pretty beaten up, sort of scabby and missing patches of fur, stuffed to the brim with whatever it is taxidermists stuff animals with, including the glass eyes and fake noses, lined up along a boulevard, nose to nose, tail to tail, and collar to collar. They pave the road to hell. What did they do to deserve this doggy hell? What did they do to deserve a visit to the taxidermist? What did they do to end up in a story called The Sun Also Rises? What did it take for Hemingway to produce this from his mind? What is it about creativity that allows us to pair a stuffed image with a hell image and an unbought image? These questions are all part of the process of imagining and exploring the text. I had lots of questions for this and most of them are answered by the statements I wrote above, questions unwritten. The time I spent on this passage is only a small amount that rich, deliberate texts deserve from their readers. If I had simply skimmed over it and found it quaint or trivial, what sort of depth would I really get out of this book? If I were to skim over this line, what is to say that I wouldn't skim over most of the description? I might have gotten more out of this book by just analyzing the hell out of this line than a skimmer would have gotten out of the whole thing. And for one good reason-I put effort into understanding and imagining where Hemingway was coming from, what he meant, and what else he might have said. This translates in the big picture into a deeper and richer understanding and connectedness with the novel. What is the point to read? Is it to finish a book and be able to say that you read a famous author? Or is it to connect with the author's ideas, the author's mind, and the author's perspective on the world? I got in touch with Hemingway through this exercise. I got a glimpse into his realm. I saw out of his eyes for the briefest of moments. I...I...I....hmmm, I only looked at one sentence and a sentence I didn't know anything about. I should probably read the rest of it. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Case Study #2--

(In the Vineyard of the Text, by Ivan Illich, required reading by Dr. Bob)

Part A

In the third chapter entitled, Monastic Reading, Illich provides a definition for a word, meditation. Coming from the Latin, meditatio, he explains that it means "incorporation". In the sense of world religions, meditation is a form of reflection or an exercise that all major religions center upon, in one way or another. I'm completely taken aback by this definition, though. For me, meditation has always been a mystery, an art that is teachable but not graspable, something that a wise old sage can do but not something that someone like me can do. Meditation has been surrounded by a cloak of over-importance: the strong emphasis given to it in so many religions makes it seem unapproachable for a layman. I've struggled with the concept of meditating, the act, and the method. Reading this definition has given me a new way of thinking about it though.

The act of incorporation; to take what you experience outside of the mind and weave a new fabric within the mind, using the new experiences as the base yarn. When the fabric is constructed, there will be the opportunity to line it with gold thread when upon further meditation you are able to come away with more and more and more insights, deeper questions, or wisdom. All you have to do is be a willing weaver and be open to the process of weaving, of incorporating the new material into what already exists up in your mind. What an amazing concept-the incorporation of knowledge or ideas into yourself, so that you own it, it becomes a part of you-this is a similar idea to real education in that you can hear everything your teacher teaches but to really learn you have to make it your own and incorporate it into your own self. In all of my contemplation on schooling, this is the ending principle for me: in order to really learn or gain something from education, you have to be a willing and active participant in the process. You have to be the one who does the work; our teachers can't make these connections for us. And so this is a very powerful and meaningful insight for me, the idea that meditation is the act of incorporation.

Part B

In the fifth chapter entitled Scholastic Reading, Illich provides a footnote explaining one of his findings within the Rule of St. Benedict. He says, "A terminological study of the Benedictine Rule shows that educare is not the task of the teacher, but regere (to guide), servire (to serve), or instruere (to instruct)." This is an essential difference that I think is lost upon my generation, or any generation of new students. To be responsible for your own education is not a concept we tend to associate with the actual process of learning, of educare, instead we'd like to believe that the grade school style of schooling continues on into college. By the grade school style of schooling I intend to evoke the images of our teachers doing everything in their power to spoon-feed us our education. Another way of looking at this is to remind people that during the early to later years of schooling, the general attitude is that it is uncool to want to learn on your own. Just by watching something as telling as the Simpsons, you can find that in the school setting, it is not the popular thing to want to work for your own education-if there isn't a teacher providing strict guidance, then the students probably won't want to do it on their own. Simply put, how many people do you know would be able to get an education in the same way as Abraham Lincoln? Not many, principally because our general attitude toward education is not a self-improvement or betterment one, it is an attitude of 'we do it because we are told to do it'. If no one tells us to do it, it probably won't happen unless there is an individual who is exceptionally motivated, which is a rarity.

The Benedictines must have had the same problem to some degree. Since they had to have a clarification in their Rule about the role of teacher and the role of student, this probably points to a general misunderstanding among the popular culture about education. Most likely their conception was our conception-school buildings and teachers and textbooks equal education, not personal growth or the incorporation of learning into your own self. This clarification has been slow in coming to me; only recently could I have honestly told you that I hold the same view as the Rule on the role of the teacher, but it did come to me. Accountability, personal responsibility, and hard work are what the student needs for education; a good teacher is the sprinkles on the ice cream, not essential but necessary if you want a better flavor and more color. ______________________________________________________________________________________



Composition as Art

Looking at a painting in the Library, it is easy to see the result of a long effort. There are the brush strokes, carefully blended, and some pencil marks on the very edge where the artist missed a little spot. It is easy to imagine the long hours, the many drafts, and the many sketches that went into this painting before this one was sold and framed. There are color choices, the light hues and the dark hues, the realistic shading on the painted man's face and jaw line, the sparkle deliberately set in his eyes, the bright colors on the ends of the brushes he holds. Looking at the fine details, then at the whole, what I get from the painting is a sense of comfort. There is a comfort found in the artist's ability; as though you can trust this person's skills enough to enjoy what they have created. There's comfort in the man's expression; comfort in the idea that this is a quality piece of art. Here is where art and literature meld together: the result of the creator's long and hard work needs to be something we can put our trust into, needs to be something we can enjoy, and needs to be something of quality.

Imagine working on a story, a blank canvas in front of your eyes, ready for a wash of words upon it. What are you going to come up with? Are you going to go at it with ideas in mind or are you going to sit there and stare at it for however long it takes for you to begin? Are you going to wait for inspiration or dive in with no certainty and little preparation? The beginning's the hardest part for some people; it takes motivation and energy, it takes trust on the part of the creator to just let yourself flow into new realms of ideas, and it takes a few tries before it is worth anything. The important part is that something fills the empty space, something is laid down-not to sound too biblical here, but a foundation of stone is much stronger than one of sand, though how much more work does it take to lay down that stone? Preparation for writing might be as simple as reading a few books, or going to listen at a few conferences. It could be as elaborate as a retreat experience, a meditative venture into your mind's deepest recesses. There are thousands of ways to begin, but the simplest and most sure way seems to be the splash of a few random brush strokes onto the canvas and see where that takes you.

The revision process in both fields is very straining and tedious. Editors make it easier for both writers and artists because the editor has motivational techniques and hopefully specific suggestions to improve the work's quality. The hard part is the psychological work. Trusting yourself that what you are doing is good work is difficult to maintain in your head when you're constantly criticizing and nitpicking at your choices. To not trust yourself and your abilities is to lose grasp on perspective, to lose hope for completion, and to lose your creative edge. If a sculptor only made one attempt at forming a leg, this being that artist's first leg ever, what hope is there that they made it representative of life? Since artists and writers often write and create art, their practice is going to give them some level of security and skill. The sculptor who has created his ten-thousandth leg and now starts on his ten-thousandth-and-one leg is going to understand the nuances of muscle structure, the basic shape, the specific proportions, but might not get it perfect on the first try. To give up on it because it has little imperfections is to deny the world what his gift truly is: the skilled construction of a piece of art. The remolding, the reworking, the recarving of a leg just so that it is finally perfect may be the toughest part for most people, but it seems to separate the great legs from the not-so-great legs.

The ending is crucial. What message do you want to get across? How do you want the characters to be seen by the audience? How do you want to achieve that message? For a painter, maybe their painting is too light-colored for the darker purpose of the piece, maybe the time finally comes when the artist takes his blacks and grays and puts the shadows in the faces of the characters or makes the sky dark with clouds. Maybe the writer decides to open up the end to interpretation and, instead of writing a moral to the story similar to Aesop's bluntly told lessons, perhaps this writer wants to create ambiguity for the reader. Maybe a subtle sentence, hiding the real scene within its inflections or vagueness. The real trick is to keep restraint, of being effective but not too clever, clear but not too loud. The greatest example I've found was in Tess of the D'Urbervilles when Tess is raped by Alex. This happens within three paragraphs at the end of a chapter and a major section of the book. The action is veiled with insinuations and metaphors for rape, but the act is never directly stated. After being told what it was and where it was, it still took me four times reading through it word by word before I picked up on Harding was telling us. Up to that point, he stated himself fairly clearly, so finding a moment of obscurity threw me off and made me reread that tricky section numerous times, just as one would reread the beginning of a new book numerous times to get that foreign style of writing comfortable in their mind. That obscurity showed a moment of brilliance. It demonstrated a subtle and careful skill that was not evident before. Most importantly, it worked well for the story. The rape scene was not blaringly loud on the page, was not graphic and scandalous, and was not out of place with the rest of the story. It fit well and made its point effectively. The author got me to a place where I grew comfortable with his style. I knew I could rely on him to deliver a good piece of writing. I didn't feel like this was something I had a right to criticize because it was already thoroughly picked at. It had already undergone the process of revision. It was a finished work of art. ______________________________________________________________________________________



Reading and writing are the most important forms of communication for us. There are other more basic forms of communication, like touching and posture and facial expression, but the former two are more important than these latter forms. Reading and writing provide the insight that you can't get when you look into someone's eyes and try to figure out whether they are crying from happiness or crying from sorrow. Reading and writing express our inner selves, they are the ViewFinder for our most isolated parts, our mind and heart, they are what allow us to connect with others.

The convenience of reading and writing cannot go understated. Shakespeare could not have told us that he thought the world was a stage, using all the colorful language, all the poetry, or all the hidden and deeper meanings that gave his works depth, if we could not have read them or if he had not written them. It could be argued that our speaking is more important because it conveys lots of things at once, but not only is our speaking too quick for something like Shakespearean understanding to pervade our souls, but it is too impermanent. One day the Iliad has a guy named Odysseus in it, the next day it's Cliff. Soon it'll be Mike and shortly after that it's gonna be Frank-spoken thought is so easily changed, so easily distorted, so easily lost. This impermanence is especially true in our time now that oral culture has fossilized, written culture hobbles toward its grave, and the information culture of today prospers. Without the memory-abilities of an oral culture, we can only rely on reading and writing to accurately convey meaning.

These tools are limited though. For example, I'm not a big fan of trying to print out on paper all of the thoughts that go through my head about a certain subject. It would be easier to show you a movie of my mind, and let them speak for themselves, but even with movies though, you don't get exactly what is needed to convey what someone feels or thinks or wants. Look at it another way. Our minds contain memories, let's say memories of a trip to a foreign country. For all the days that you spent on that trip, you experienced thousands if not millions or trillions of events that were stored in your mind. On any given day, you could have had thousands of memories, and each one of those memories is a series of moments, like a snapshot. For any given snapshot, you could describe that moment with millions of words-a picture is worth a thousand words (at least), right? If you use only a bare-minimum thousand words for each snapshot, which is just one moment, and you have only a thousand moments in a memory of an event, and finally you have millions of events in your trip, how many words would it take to fully describe your trip to people back home? Similarly, compare our minds to the sky and our memories to the clouds in the sky. Now these big, puffy, cottony clouds are floating around, and there are thousands just waiting to be explored, but do you have enough paper in the entire world to capture a million clouds?

There has to be an easier and more efficient way to communicate. To make the connections that I'd like to make with people, I'd like to connect on a bigger level, a level where understanding is at the maximum, where loneliness is non-existent, and where the fluid exchange of ideas is non-chalantly tossed about in total comprehension.

What I ask for is a collective conscious sort of idea: a utopian-"nowhere" hope whose idealism frustrates me as much as it inspires me. What I ask for is also the impossible, and unfortunately I have to make do with what I've got, and that's writing and reading, limited though they are. Nevertheless, knowing these limitations but continuing to long for what's out of reach, I am motivated to use reading and writing to their fullest.


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