Animism and the Alphabet

I would like to concur with Abram’s words that writing is a form of animism. This portrays writing as a kind of magic output advanced in a creative way by man. Abram argues that human beings tend to complicate the meaning of magic yet they do perform magic every time they get a book to read or a pen to write.

Magic can be defined as the art of producing effects by superhuman means. From the definition of magic, human beings tend to perceive magic as being a supernatural thing. This is however not the case for Abram. Despite the common human perception of magic, he tends to disagree with the fact that magic is superhuman.

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Abram describes human beings as extraordinary animals but nonetheless they are animals. He tries to put across the fact that the alphabet is a sign of magic. However, people see it to be normal and obvious. He argues that human beings are not born with the knowledge of reading or writing but after sometime, they are able to do it. Magicians are also human beings who are not born with the knowledge of how to perform magic.

They learn after sometime due to their interest in performing magic. “The efficacy of these pictorially derived systems necessarily entails a shift of sensory participation away from the voices and gestures of the surrounding landscape toward our own human-made images,” (Abram David, P.31). This implies that writing is not a magic but an occurrence that comes about man’s interaction with the environment.

Abram argues further by giving an example of a person reading a newspaper. When someone is reading a newspaper, he sees words and pictures talking to him yet they do not have mouths to speak.

Despite the fact that they are producing sound, they speak to the person and the person is able to get the message that the alphabet is communicating. In the same way, people are able to pass messages from their minds into paper through writing to other people. A person speaks to a pen or a writing material by way of magic and so does the writing material does to the recipient of the message.

Magic is a result of humans’ five common senses which are: sight, hear, touch, taste and smell. It is therefore the way a human being associates with the environment that enables him to perform magic. It is therefore important to note that the way the alphabet speaks to us is the same way other non human things can speak to us.

This however requires deep sensual communication for one to be able to learn to communicate with it. If a person is able to talk through the use of the alphabet and vice-versa, I wonder why people think it is magic for the same person to see a stone and hear from it.

Serious questions abound as to what really differentiates the sound of the stone and consequently the sound of the alphabet. Writing therefore is magic because it is equated to the same way the “Hopi” elder sees a stone and hears from it or the same way a “Lakota” man sees a spider on a tree and communicates with it.

Writing therefore came with the application of senses to the environment and the ability to use the senses to get messages from our surrounding and so is magic. This shows that writing is bodily and people learn to write from their body contacts with the environment.

When one decides to pass information with an emotional feeling, he is getting the message from his brain onto the paper and also to the mind of the intended recipient. The aspect of communicating emotions through the written word is magical in its own right. The receiver of the message reads and gets himself into the same mood that the message was written by the writer.

This shows that the writer of the message had the same senses with the reader. For example, if a teacher writes a note, “Poor work, see me”, on a student’s assignment, the student perceives that the teacher is annoyed and puts up a mindset that he or she is likely to be punished.

This shows good communication initiated through the magic of writing as evident in Abram’s words, “A direct association is established between the pictorial sign and the vocal gesture, for the first time bypassing the thing pictured” (Abram David, P.33).

Writing is magical in the way it is able to explain pictures or symbols. This is evident because before the era of computers, there were no symbols or graphics which could be printed to take up the place of words (Abram David, P.36). If words are capable of drawing a picture or a symbol in one’s mind, it is beyond doubt that they are magical in nature.

For example, if a driver driving on a high way finds a board written “Bumps Ahead”, and another finds a board with a bump drawn on it, both drivers are likely to slow down because the words and the symbols bring out a similar message.

Abram puts it clear that the computer era is affecting the magic of writing because it is providing shortcuts to writing. He points out that the graphics and symbols that are being used in a computer make writing less of a magic.

He however remains firm by stating that a person can learn how to use a computer without knowing how to write. He says, “Human utterances are now elicited, directly, by human-made signs; the larger, more-than-human life-world is no longer a part of the semiotic, no longer a necessary part of the system,” (Abram David, P.33)

Abram also came up with a good example of the word, “Spell” to show that writing is a magic. The word, “Spell” can be used to mean the spelling of the letters that make a certain word or, “Spell” meaning a natural disaster like the dry spell.

The magic in this case is shown by the fact that before the introduction of technology, the word spell used to give one meaning (Abram David, P.37). After the introduction of technology, it was so magical that the word got a different meaning hence the magic in writing.

Abram concluded that there is magic in writing and for people to understand this, they are supposed to let things live and use their senses to interact with the environment. Through this, people will be able to discover the influence of things to them. I therefore agree with Abram’s statement that writing is a form of animism.

Abram’s, “ Ways of Reading” will never cease to predict the coaching of writing techniques by initiating a unique and motivating approach in composition writing to learners. This goes in hand with learners writing, reading and thinking of the appropriate features.

This is evident when he says, “Our first writing, clearly, was our own tracks, our footprints, our hand-prints in mud or ash pressed upon the rock,” (Abram David, P.30). He tries to show how writing has been a form of magic that human beings have not yet come to discover.

It is truly magical especially in the eyes of learners because it guides them on ways of determining how to select the best features to value or to specialize in. The learners read and internalize the message of the reading. We can therefore conclude that learners are able to uphold writing as form of magic and define their understanding through their writing.

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