Writing as Magic

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

Permeating human culture and religious belief is the idea that the written word has a supernatural power. To understand this one must look at writing through the eyes of the first humans to see it.

Imagine seeing someone look at strange indecipherable symbols on a rock, a wall, a tablet, or a scroll, and that person could while doing that, read the thoughts of someone they had never met, or tell others how to build a temple, or tell stories from the distant past.

It’s difficult for humans in the 21st century to understand that there was a time when writing was an earth shattering new technology, that gave those who understood it the ability to perform what surely must have looked like miracles.

2 thoughts on “Writing as Magic

  1. “A word after a word after a word is power.” So said Atwood.

    And the written word is the most potent magic in the world today. All our abstract social constructs rely on the written word and the shared illusions it creates.

    Writing magically gifts us with degrees, permits, licenses, deeds, promissory notes, human rights and, most importantly, website binding agreements to terms and conditions…

    We are more tightly bound by that which the written word signifies than by any other means of communication.

    Yes it’s magic, and like all magic, it comes at a price:  Our actions are more tightly prescribed by the bindings of the written word than any demon stuck in a chalk outlined circle…


  2. I once was under the illusion that if you fully understood the meaning and context of every human word, you would know everything that every human ever knew.  But I now understand that is not true.  There is knowledge that only comes with experience, or perhaps written in our dna, that there are no words for.

    Muscle memory, smells, sounds and sights.  Words can help recall the memory of these things, but words can’t capture “the thing itself”.  There are things the human body and dna knows that cannot be captured by words.

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