Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Give Me a Book

Have you ever tried to explain scenery to a blind person? Have you ever listened to a description or an explanation and just not understood? Remember algebra?

There is a mindset which develops with experience which can be had in no other way. You have to have the senses, the words and the understanding of those words to adequately describe anything. This is one reason I love photography. While I cannot be where the image was captured I can involve many of my senses to recreate and enjoy what I see. This is also one of the reasons I enjoy good writing.

Depending upon training and life experiences everyone has, or does not have, the ability to understand many different things and how they work together. A blind person will have the intellectual understanding of descriptive words but probably not the perception of their meaning. In the same way, a seeing person will never understand the activity of living in darkness. If blind from birth there is no requisite experience upon which to draw experiential meaning to many descriptive words. This does not limit the individual who is blind. It simply removes them from the frame of reference had by a seeing person. Conversely, those who see cannot have the frame of reference had by one born blind. Both individuals may think in a similar fashion about many things but cannot think alike about just as many things. The perception of reality is different, not the reality.

But suppose one is made blind after a life of seeing. Or, suppose one loses that, anything, which they are accustomed to having. This losing throws the person into an experience equally difficult to share or explain to those who have never had such loss, or to those who have had different loses. In some way such has happened to all. We all have differing experiences, training, lifestyles, emotions. At best we can only catch a glimpse of the experiences of others, or remember our own, or imagine them based upon or memories and the descriptions of those who have lived the experience.

Thus, we have libraries, the writings of those who know something, intellectually, intimately, or both, to inspire the imagination of the reader. Every word written, spoken, or heard has an impact upon the reader, the hearer, the viewer. Every idea, whether written well or scrambled, does something to it audience. The words have to mean the same thing to the one writing them and the one reading. The reader does not have the pleasure of reassigning meaning to words or ideas. Even in Scrabble the jumble of letters have to be arranged into legitimate words to be recognized. Nobody gets to make up words for points. Learning happens when anyone who knows something explains that something to anyone else willing and capable of learning. Many people benefit from the experiences of one when written and collected by a library.

I have caught a glimpse of something I do not understand. That glimpse scared me, caused me wonder, piqued my curiosity, repulsed me, or deadened me to its value. Perhaps someone can explain it, describe it, enlighten me. Or maybe just give enough evidence to convince me that something is either not worth pursuing, or as valuable as gold and fine jewels. It never occurred to me such a thing could exist. I don't think that way, but maybe I can learn.

Give me a well-written book and let me discover.

Gerald F. Ward

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