It is amazing when considered, the things that scratched paper can do.
You can literally sit down right now, with a warm drink and a few cold and bound pieces of paper, and know what Winston Churchill thought as
Through time and space, by scratching ink into thin paper, you can sense the warmness and stillness of the kitchen in the childhood home of Corrie Ten Boom.
And Bill Bryson can make you laugh from a walk he took so many years ago.
That we communicate over the generations in this rudimentary way…
It is stunning, if you think about it.
Rather, I simply want to emphasize that, having better understood the near-miracle of our ability to decode marks on paper, we are left with a truth equally remarkable: that some of us greatly desire to do so, and that some of us find abiding consolation in what we encounter when our eyes scan words on the page in those strange jerky saccades. That images striking the retina can be transferred to the edge of the left
occipito-temporalfissure, and there can be decoded, is extraordinary; that what is decoded there can bring tears to the eyes, or cause laughter to rise up from the diaphragm, or bring to a deeply unhappy boy cut off from his beloved mother a few hours, or many hours, of joy … I don’t have words to express how deeply strange this is. I encouraged you in my previous section to “read at whim!”—but why would anyone ever be struck by that particular whim? This is a mystery.
-Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures Of Reading In An Age Of Distraction
Also published on Medium.