Where are the words that you are reading now? And what are they?
Never a day when words aren't wonderful, but there is something about handling a clothbound book. Currently reading How To Believe Again, sermons by Helmut Thielicke.
We all perceive a story, however conveyed or what media is used to tell it, from our own individual perspective. The sum total of our own lifetime of experiences become the translator that shapes the narrative to our own views. Is the story then the same for each of us, or for each a different story? What do each of us carry away from the story we are told? If we retell the story to others is it the same story simply retold or a new story? If the audience for the retelling comes from a perspective different than our own, as they must with differing lives, is the story a new one? If the audience includes many individuals is each gifted with the same story or does each receive a unique version of the tale?
These questions and the musings on words reflect the paradox of communicative dissonance. Each story is transformed by the lifetime of experiences of the listeners to it's own unique tale. How then to convey the intended message of storyteller?
The best storytellers shape their narratives to convey a common experience to their audience. For only in that shared experience can the message be told most effectively. This is the magic of parables and fairy tales that provide those colorful common experiences to cloak an important message.
Celebrate those tales and the storytellers who preserve them from generation to generation.
I purchased a digital copy of The Road to Unfreedom. But I kept wanting to underline and go back. So I got a real-book paper copy, and only then could I settle in to follow the arguments and understand the concepts. This had the possible side benefit of being able to loan the physical copy to my neighbor, Michael. Michael had surprised me by borrowing from me and reading every page of Bloodlands. I was not able to do that, not because it was a scholarly work, but because the realities described were just too horrific. Michael watches Fox News and accepts much of what he sees and hears, although he proudly claims to be 'independent.' I wondered if he could also read every page of The Road to Unfreedom. I wanted him to learn about Ukraine in a different way that one could learn from Fox News; that was the time before Trump's first impeachment when there was a lot of nonsense being thrown around. But Michael returned the book, "I just couldn't get into it." I didn't press him as to why. I wanted to keep a friendly relationship with a neighbor without bringing in our national cold civil war.
Right now I'm reading The Agitators, which tells the story of three friends, Martha Coffin Wright, Frances Seward, and Harriet Tubman, and their work in women's rights and as abolitionists. Of course the account includes the time of the Civil War. I recommend the book highly. It also has me musing about our current national divides and wondering and fretting if there will be an absolute sticking point -- like slavery in the 19th century -- that breaks us out of the current cold civil war into a hot one.
When I think of the “written word”, The first thing I think of is books. But there are also magazines, newspapers, procedures, documents, and so on. I have spent the last part of my career interpreting written regulations. Sounds dull, doesn’t it? Not really though because I have to put my idea of what those words mean in a form that others can understand and act on. There’s power and peril in doing that.
Of course, my favorite written word is books. I read all kinds of books. I am often impressed by how a book comes to be whether it be, for example, from an investigative journalist, a historian, or a novel. A good investigative journalist or historian has an opinion but also must hew to facts so the dynamic presented with the words reflects that. The novelist can use facts but also explores the “what if” part to tell a story. This sounds pedantic, doesn’t it? So, I am going to say, what the written word allows me to do is to turn on my imagination because the words mean nothing without that. There is a bridge that grows between my reading and how the words are put together. What am I reading right now? After a long hiatus, I am reading murder-mysteries by writers who use Florida as their setting, specifically Carl Hiaasen and Randy Wayne White. Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, obtained a degree in Journalism, wrote for the Miami Herald, and also wrote novels on the side. He wrote for adults snd children. His novels were Florida-based, darkly humorous, and often dwelt on environmentalism and political corruption. If you read them, you understand the current state of Florida politically. Randy Wayne White was born in Ohio, spent summers in North Carolina, lived as a teenager in Iowa, and post high school settled in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers area) in 1972. White worked for the Fort Myers News-Press and then as a fishing guide on Sanibel Island. His books, both fiction and non-fiction are often steeped in Florida history and nature which in Florida relates to the water. Why do I spend time talking about the authors I am reading? I like finding out about the writer because it adds to the story I am reading. It is that bit about what is not on the page and what is not in the brain. It contributes to that in-between place.
I've always felt that writing, using a tool to record symbols meant to express and communicate, may be one of the characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals. I like thinking about words and books as magic, which spiritual theorist Starhawk defines as "changing consciousness at will." Maybe words and books are tools for changing consciousness.
Words to convey meaning aggregations of symbols we call letters that in and of themselves have no meaning big magic!
I knew there was Levinasian/Derridian perspectives in your thinking! Much thanks for sharing your books/words with us - ☺️