Writing about writing

Writing about writing

A word . . . stems from somewhere, is inspired somehow by something, some occurrence at first not clearly understood, but with the passage of time unravels its meanings in their full magnitude as defined; by the word.
Commonly penned somewhere in the subconscious of the utterer that in simple terms ‘speaks’ it (for the term is in its basic definition related to the act of communication, passing the message on and receiving it via various senses), the word is what becomes the nexus of the act of communication, a bridge that connects the dots in the act associated with connecting the human and animal and plant races of the world; the word is on its own the core of the process of communication, the definitive element that gives the act of communication its character and meaning: for without the word communication is non-existent.

In many shapes, scents, colours, sensations, flavours, and other stimulants words have their form; and they are thus used to serve the one primal purpose of connection in the world: communication.
What I feel inside or outside my skin is a sensation felt only by me, what I see is thus seen as viewed from my perspective and not the next individual’s, what I taste can only be described as tasted by my tongue, what I hear goes only into my auditory senses and however loud, cannot be deemed to have been heard by all in spite of their proximity to the source of the sound I hear, and the smell of the wild rose reaches only my nasal nodes and affects each person that comes across the thorny plant on a level individual.

Processed and interpreted in my brain; what I see, taste, smell, touch, and hear carries only a certain level of meaning applicable only to me.
It is only after I pass it on to the next individual in the form of words spoken, scribbled, or signalled that it begins to make sense to those that themselves have a certain level of understanding of that which I am trying to describe.

Without the understanding of that which is being described, the process of interpretation out of which meanings are drawn is rendered temporarily impossible, as the transmitter is forced to find similar entities in the immediate environs to try and describe that which they are trying to pass on in their words.

A clear example can be made of the description of the eel. To the individual that does not know what it is, it just looks like an aquatic species of snake.
The transmitter (the speaker), has to define that it is a fish on the basis of the physiological characteristics it displays which confirm its state of being as a fish. If the receiver (listener, audience) is not familiar with the characteristics of both types of creature (reptile and fish) used as points of comparison to define the one creature that is of interest in the conversation (episode of communication), then it would be hard for the meaning (that the eel is a fish and not a reptile) to be understood, and this renders the whole episode of communication as failed.

Communication exists only if the entities associated with the words are familiar or have familiar relatives from which meanings can be drawn.
Without the simple element of familiarity present in an episode of communication, the whole episode is non-effectual in terms of the basic purpose of conversation between the two or more parties involved; because then, the two parties involved might as well be talking to rocks or staring at the sun, and the only meanings they can make out of the whole episode are drawn out of what is little understood or instinctively understood.

Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe’s classic of the same name finds himself alone on the island he is marooned (stranded) upon. He is forced to train a parrot for communicative company, and he is literally shocked when he sees a human footprint on the beach one day.
For the extended period he is alone on the island, his explorations have shown no evidence of the existence of any form of a civilisation human, and he therefore declares himself king.

The reality however, is that there is a human civilisation that precedes even his marooned existence on the island, it may be that he could not see the signs because the society that uses the island regard it as their sacred ground and they therefore leave only subtle signs, or, that nature somehow always manages to erase the signs of human civilisation completely with each advent and departure of the tribe of cannibals who one day arrive in the wake of the footprint he sees in the sand of the beach. Crusoe observes the rituals of the previous civilisation from a hiding place and only intervenes at the point where his instinctive knowledge triggers him into hero mode, and he saves a man from the jaws of death after scattering his capturers.

Whether the man (whom he later calls Friday based on the day he rescued him) was at peace with being the sacrifice, or whether he had accepted his fateful end as dinner to fellow tribesmen does not really matter to Robinson Crusoe.
What counts for more is that his Christian ethos would not let him see a man killed in his presence, for according to the tenets of his faith the ritual in which the man (Friday) he rescues is of a kind that is considered heathen.

One at this point sees the erasure of the primitive culture and its meanings at the point of a musket (a gun) in the name of Crusoe’s (the stranded man) personal understanding of the events that unfold in front of his eyes on the given Friday.
More than the meaning behind the ritual, one senses the author’s justification of Robinson Crusoe’s uninvited intervention in the affairs of the aboriginal inhabitants that can at its most basic be termed intrusion.

The basis for this is Christian, the Mosaic Law that states, “Thou shalt not kill,” and whether one is justified to kill or not does not count; what counts far more than anything is the law: out of which any or all of the meanings of existence in terms of the words of the story are drawn.
Crusoe and Friday finally understand each other after rigorous but partial teaching in the English tongue, after which Friday can utter a few words that serve the needs of Crusoe (whether they serve the utterer remains unclear).

That they finally understand each other is not the main point here, for the main point lies in the fact that they can finally communicate with each other as humans should, however promontory their communication episodes are, the two figures on the island can now work together; because they can now talk to each other.

I prefer the use of this book to present the concept of writing, the act of speaking, and the essence of talking.
Writing is done from the comfort of some corner where the writer presents their observations on some phenomenon of worldly and other lives, speaking is done almost everywhere by everyone, but the process of talking (which by association is similar to speaking but in form different) is closed in-depth conversation between a select number of individuals over a specific issue that is salient for the correlation and cooperation between human and other individuals in world society.

The writer has the benefit of being both able to speak and talk in their writing through their characters, their choice themes, and the settings or landscapes they choose to use in their work. One is dismayed when what is under usual circumstances plain gibberish is termed writing. These works, without theme, plot, character, or setting often land in the open public space under the guise of writing, and through their disguise end up convincing the gullible that they too can write, which ends up flooding the world with a tonne of scribbled garbage that flouts the primary purpose of the process of writing; to present the world as it is in reality through borrowed themes, created characters, well-thought plots, and well-designed (designated) settings.

By choosing to present the main character as Robinson Crusoe, Defoe sets the stage by presenting a castaway on a deserted island, to present the basic human theme of survival under uncertain circumstances which in turn unravels the colonial plot where the westerner presents himself as the saviour of that ‘savage native’ whom he cannot at first even speak to.

One of the possible interpretations of this work is that the human being sometimes needs to be isolated to rediscover who they really are, to give them room to see new experiences, to learn new things, to find out how they can do much with the little that they have: to reinvent the world and render it suitable enough to live comfortably in.

Our writing should not be for the sake of sensation all the time (that is the work of comedians and comics); it should tend toward exploring themes that answer what we ‘talk’ about when we speak.
One knows the challenges of global warming, rising unemployment, escalating levels of poverty, rampant crime, worsening health concerns and other issues core to peaceful human living.

\Of these issues in discussions and ‘talks’ one hears very little ( a piece on a braai festival and nail polishing actually garners more interest), and the condition of the continent worsens due to the ‘useless’ pieces of writing one comes across in the varied media platforms.
We never really progressed as we should because our governments adopted European models of economic growth and expansion but actually never use them, because they do not understand them; sort of like Friday learning English from Crusoe and never getting to use it again once they split paths at the end of the tale.

We did borrow a lot from the English in terms of language and façade qualities such as dress and fake accents. Of the core elements that make up most of their writing which they follow to the tee, we took none.
Just because you can speak like the English and borrowed their systems of governance and rule does not mean you are English.
Equally speaking, just being able to order a few lines or sentences and phrases does not mean one automatically becomes a writer.

The why, the when, the what, the where, and the who of writing count far more than the syntactic rules because they in their basic form actually determine how the piece one writes actually makes common sense that can be used by society in practical ways.
Works that are well-written should actually carry a certain degree of practicality in their paragraphs.
If they merely prattle on for the sake of filling the three requirements of composition writing (the introduction, the body, and the ending), they deserve to be shelved in the darkest corner of the basement where they shall present no harm to the unfortunate children that may open of their pages.

When one writes about writing, the argument is that there is freedom of expression; what I wonder is why this freedom of expression should be encouraged in certain professions and discouraged in others. I can write a lot on literature, development, and politics.
I can write none on law and medicine, not because I cannot write anything on how to dissect a cadaver or how to defend a statute: the truth is that these fields are protected ‘by law’.

I often wonder why an engineer thinks they can write literature better than those that studied creative writing in depth.
The speakeasy speak is that anyone can write. Well, anyone can calculate the gradient, pick a spanner and cut through the epidermis with a scalpel given enough time to practice.

Not everyone can pose the question: when will writing in all its forms be respected enough to be declared an exclusive profession in this country? We have spoken enough on copyright, music rights and intellectual property, and nothing has come out of the speaking episodes.
This is perhaps the time to begin understanding each other through real talk; unless you are still of the colonised opinion that some professions are better than others as taught by your colonised dimwit of a fore parent.

Everyone is king only if they respect other kings in their lands. Writing is my land doctor, respect me like I do when I come to your consulting rooms. This is my land . . .

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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