Do people write anymore? Am I unique in the fact that I enjoy penning words to paper (or placing pixels to the computer screen)? Have people, now or in a different part of history, been more-or-less prone to writing down their thoughts? Or is that a rare characteristic?
The medium of writing was there to usher in the beginning of recorded history. It is a pretty good system. And yet it has flaws.
Take, for example, the slippery meanings of words. Within a language, there is an evolution. A mere 60 years ago, the Lucille Ball radio program “My Favorite Husband” billed itself as “the gay family-comedy series about two people who live together, and like it.” That was repeated at the beginning of every episode. Even though I understand the era it was spoken in and the intended meaning of that phrase, I still momentarily startle to attention when I hear that mini-plot summary which would mean something so different if delivered today. If that small example is only separated from us by 60 years, then it is no wonder that Shakespeare is hard for people to read and comprehend today.
Then, there is the opportunity of translation of words. What a responsibility the translators of the King James Bible must have felt! Working as a committee, they read sacred words spoken by prophets and apostles 4000 years before their time, and attempted to convey the same meanings to people the people of their day who spoke a different tongue. Though undoubtedly some mistakes slipped through, surely God blessed them with wisdom, judgment, and talent, and touched them with inspiration as they handled those sacred words.
In the last paragraph, I used the descriptor “handled” – and yet words cannot be picked up and carried. Instruments of writing can be clutched; paper, stone, metal, or other writing surfaces can be hefted; the words themselves are only symbols inked and engraved. Those symbols, arranged in an order, are only meaningful to someone else if they understand that order, and if they interpret with the same thoughts and associate the same meaning.
When listening to the spoken word, this can be easier to do. Proper tone and inflection help to convey the meanings. But with the written words, the writer must describe the event in perfect detail, and then place an enormous trust in the reader to understand the portrayal correctly.
Maybe that makes writing too hard. Is that why many people don’t do it? I worry that the art and talent of reading might also be dwindling, because it takes too much commitment and effort to understand and communicate in this way.
I’ve wondered – if Moses or Isaiah had the technology, would they made their messages into a movie instead of writing them? How would Isaiah’s depiction of the coming Messiah (in chapter 53) have translated to the big screen? Is Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” the way to convey the sufferings of Christ, or do the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John stand a better chance of touching and teaching the willing heart and soul?
I have a lot of questions as I think about the amazing process and gift of writing. I’ve considered a lot of philosophical ideals as I wonder about its place. The only conclusion I’ve come to is that I need to do more of it. I hope I don’t disappoint the reader who chooses to read it.