I love writing and reading because they are part of the most direct form of communication ever devised. Right now, most of you are probably wondering: “Why do you believe this in an age when television can bring us news events live, as they are occurring, complete with sound, images, movement, and commentary?”
The key word is “direct.” Yes, television, movies, radio, computers, these are all forms of communications and many have immediacy, but few of them can achieve the directness of communication that writing and reading can. Let me illustrate:
Right now, I am thinking: “Right now, I am thinking…” and as you read those words, you are “hearing” them in your head or, rather, you are thinking them. Your brain is likely firing many of the same neurons that my brain was firing when I was writing this. This is about as close as we can come to direct thought-transfer.
Yes, a television can show you want a reporter is looking at, but you may have a different reaction to seeing it than the reporter does. Yes, the reporter can also tell you what she is thinking about what you are seeing on the screen. Another example would be having someone standing in front of you, talking with you about something they are thinking. However, it’s quite likely that in addition to hearing their communication, you are also picking up on peripheral information. You may notice that the reporter has a nasally voice or you may notice that the person standing in front of you is wearing an “I’m with stupid –>” T-shirt. That peripheral information may, if it does not wholly distract you from what the reporter or person are saying, unduly influence your perception of the message. You might, for example, be turned off by the nasally reporter or be wondering if the person in the T-shirt is qualified to be giving you stock market advice.
Or take the example of a film. A film is certainly faster and easier to consume than a novel. A typical novel takes me a weekend or two to get through. A movie takes, on average, a couple of hours. A novel requires me to envision what a character looks like — and I may not get the exact same image as the author had. A movie shows me an actor who embodies the character. It requires me to take voices of people I know or accents I have heard and ascribe them to the characters’ dialogue — and I may not have the same pitch and pacing to it that the author imagined. A movie has a specific actor’s voice, presumably chosen for his or her ability to capture what the screenwriter and director intend. What the movie will struggle to convey, however, is exactly what the character is thinking. In a novel, the author can show us the world through the character’s point of view, complete with the characters innermost thoughts and feelings. The actor will have to do his or her best to convey this through voice, gesture, and facial expression, but short of blurting out every thought as a line of dialogue for all to hear, we can never know exactly what the movie character is thinking.
With the written word, what you get is what the person thinks, free of most of the other information that might distract you from their message. When you read what I am writing, you are judging me on the quality of my mind, my thoughts, my ability to express myself, and not on my skin color, ethnic background, clothes, facial expressions (which in my case are often misleading anyway!), or any other factors about me that aren’t relevant to what I am trying to communicate to you. This is just my mind communicating thoughts and ideas to your mind. You may disagree with me and you may have other thoughts of your own in response to me, but, for the time being, you are following along with my thoughts.