Trouble in Cedar Key: Thoughts on the written word

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By Gene Benedict

Have you ever thought about thinking? Have you ever thought about experiencing? How do you think and experience? Do you do it in words? Thoughts and experiences don't come in words. You can be illiterate yet you think and experience. You don't need to be able to read and write to enjoy a meaningful life.

Writing is taking an experience or a thought and recording it, black on white, in two dimensions on a flat piece of paper. That paper can last for an extended period of time. But that experience, that thought, is momentary and fleeting. It may exist in your memory for a while, but even there it eventually loses its place in its context, in time.

We make vertical, horizontal, diagonal, rounded strokes on paper. They become a letter. We make other distinctive strokes and have another letter. We take these letters and place them together in various combinations and we have a word. Separate the words with spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and we have a thought. Add combinations of other strokes, called numbers, and we have a quantified thought.

Place these thoughts into groupings and we have a simple concept. Divide these by spacings and indentures and we have paragraphs. Collections of paragraphs make up more developed thoughts. Eventually, we have in a flat, remedial way recorded an experience. Then a thesis, a treatise, a chapter, a book, a volume. The concept goes on.

But yet we are far, far from that initial thought, that initial experience. Those scratches on a sheet of paper bear no resemblance, physically, to their origin. And communication in the physical world involves motion, expression, sound, smell, taste, seeing, and feeling. And feeling is physical and emotional.

So, how does the black markings on a flat piece of white paper convey a thought? Or reveal an experience? Some of it by the learned rules of English and syntax and a few other techniques, but most importantly, through the art of the writer. It is amazing that something lived in color, in three dimensions (or more), through the other senses, and felt so intensely can result from those simple scratches.

Writing is an art. In Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea," scarcely a word is spoken, yet the reader is right there in the boat with the old man. It takes a certain amount of genius to create something that in itself may never have had reality. Yet it conjures up ancient emotions and makes it as if you were really experiencing the old man, the sea and his ordeal.

And all from a few marks on a piece of paper...

Let's consider this line of thinking a bit and revisit it again sometime soon. Till then, I'll see you out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.

E-mail: tnckgebe@yahoo.com