"We pass the word around; we ponder how the case is put by different people, we read the poetry; we meditate over the literature; we play the music; we change our minds; we reach an understanding. Society evolves this way, not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to comprehend each other." - Lewis Thomas

Monday, August 30, 2010


Working in the public sector, as I'm sure most if not all of you know, see a wide variety of people. I work for "Service Canada", trying to sell the idea that we are a 'one-stop shop' for all things the Government of Canada offers. We see a wide variety of people with unique circumstances coming into our office.

Today, an elderly man came in holding a letter in his hand. He told me he was illiterate and couldn't read what it said. I felt bad. He showed me the letter and asked if was in the right spot as he had gone to the wrong spot before. This time he was. I put him in to see one of our Citizen Service Officers once they weren't busy. As per all things government, a wait did ensues.

I, being a wanna-be writer, am a people watcher by nature. I saw him pick up a paper and stare at it. My heart sank. Words are my life, I do not know what I would do without them. I wish there was more that I could have done for him.

It got me to thinking about what it would be like, starign a words and only seeing jibberish. Meaningleses scribbles on peices of paper, ink, and web-pages. None of us (bloggers) would be able to write out our thoughts, ideologies, poetry, prose...anything. Scary place, that world is. Are you able to imagine a world without writing, reading or words?

A world where signs, symbols mean nothing. I felt horrible. It made me realize how lucky I was to be literate. It was an enlightening experience for me...thought I would share with you all.


  1. That was a wonderful insight. I thought about it and I recalled as a child my father would speak Norwegian and I didn't know the language (he never shared it with us, probably so he could swear), but I remember thinking that he was magical for knowing a foreign language. This is probably how us Americans feel visiting France and staring at menus. It is humbling. Perhaps, though, this man's focus of his life was on something else, like building the best barns he could or raising healthy chickens or boating the major rivers. Everyone finds their passion and follows it. Perhaps words eluded him because he was chasing other things.

  2. Great post...a world without the written word is a sad place indeed. I can't imagine my world without a book or magazine, a simple street sign, or even directions on a medicine bottle. I too deal with people that are illiterate or struggling. I know that those who are learning will one day realize the wonderful world they were missing out on for so long...


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