There are times when I like — or, more truly, need — to write. Not as in “think something profound and express it with words”; but physically, with a pen or pencil on paper, to write. In another life I might have been a calligrapher; writing on paper is to me an elemental aesthetic experience. I thrill at the erratic flow of quickly printing letters. (Unwilling to compromise the integrity of the individual letter, as a child I refused to employ cursive writing, and still only print.) I get enchanted as the letters I’m drawing, seemingly of their own accord, collect themselves, as they must, into words.
In my dream I hold poised above a piece of unmarked white paper a standard-issue yellow pencil, newly sharpened to a perfect point. The whole of my vision is taken up my hand, the pencil, and the unbroken expanse of the paper. I realize it’s been too long since I used a pencil on paper; I’m really looking forward to writing something. So I do: with the unbroken movement that makes writing so much physical fun, I print out a word.
But the word I wrote — and I don’t even know what word it is — does not appear on the paper. The pencil has somehow failed. This makes no sense; I can see its lead point, and as I wrote certainly felt its satisfying press against the paper. Yet the paper remains blank. Mystified, I lay the pencil aside; in my dream now the only thing I see is the white paper. As I stare at the place where I thought I had written something, a word begins to appear on the page. At first its letters are too faint for me to make out, but as I watch they emerge from the whiteness, finally coalescing into a word that I was not aware I had written.
And looking at that lone word in the middle of the vast white page, I begin to cry. What overwhelms me isn’t the impact of the word upon me personally (though there is that), but rather that it has the same definitional meaning to untold millions of people that it does to me.
I cry at the wonder and power of a common written language.
As I stared at it, “know” grew blurry through the tears in my eyes.
And then I was awake again, lying in my bed.
And now here I am, before my computer.