Walking With Words

Your eyes are walking through the terrain of this article. Your path is defined by these words. By the time you are reading this the path has already been carved out. At this moment in time I am writing these words, which is to say carving your path.

But you are far from constrained by the path I am carving, because your experiences, knowledge, mood and all other personal baggage determines the exact route you will take — that is, if you actually decide to walk it to the end. I don’t mean baggage in a negative sense, but rather to describe what you bring with you to this article.

Differences in baggage means that you and another person can read this sentence and form different opinions of exactly what it means and experience different emotional reactions to it. The fact that our baggage constantly changes along with our personal growth, regression and the cyclical fluctuations of our beings means that the other person could be a future or past version of yourself. Perhaps you come back to this article tomorrow, read the first sentence of this paragraph again and realise, as indicated by your novel opinion and emotional reaction, that you have indeed become the other person.

In the same way, me and another person could traverse the boardwalk of the marina I’m currently at in Brighton. Brighton marina has a few cafes in, one of which has attracted my custom today because of her gentle ambience, panoramic windows, decent coffee, friendly staff and being outside of city centre bustle. The boardwalk is a few minutes away and takes you past spools of moored boats, loads of flats and some sparse palm trees which stick out like aliens amidst the chill of English winter, flaunting an almost unnatural ability to survive in hostile environments, perhaps just like yourself. Me and another person would form different opinions and emotional reactions as a result of traversing this same boardwalk, just as with the first sentence of the previous paragraph.

While that would partly be due to our differing baggage, it could also be because of differing environments. If we walked at different times of day, the temperature would be different, as well as the locations of the sun, moon and stars in the sky. If we walked at highly different times of year the seasons would be different, and that would bring a whole load of changes such as the number of people and the ratio of locals to tourists, the presence or absence of massive majestic clouds of birds in the sky called murmurations and diametrical variations in weather patterns.

In the same way, of those of you walking the path — the boardwalk — which is this article, all of you will be doing so in different environments, unless two or more of you are reading this together, in which case I feel a deeply romantic sentiment towards you bonding over my writing. However, most of you will be reading this in solitude, whether literally on your ones or in a solitary bubble within a populated space, probably because you prefer reading things alone versus with other people (me too.) The weather, season, temperature, time, ambience, decor, people and everything else surrounding you will have led you to develop differing opinions of and emotional reactions to that sentence, that paragraph, this article, as they would the boardwalk.

Once you reach the end of this path, some of you will generously share your resultant opinions and emotional reactions with me and other readers. Others will keep that information private. Of those who share, we who read about your opinions and emotional reactions will, due to differing baggage and environments, form differing opinions and emotional reactions to the words you use to communicate your own. As such it seems pretty difficult for our actual experiences not to get lost in translation.

But that is what we are dealing with in words: extremely limited translations of experiences which are unlimited in their texture, complexity, individuality, richness and meaning. And so we reach the end of this path, running out of boardwalk, steps away from rejoining the rest of the world and its myriad walkways, alleyways, highways, all sorts of pathways through every type of terrain.

That terrain could be Brighton marina or an insight into words, a valley with a fast moving river or a rapidly growing political movement, your home street or a memory of your home; that terrain could be physical or metaphysical. As writers we carve paths through metaphysical terrain, and when traversing such paths as readers we are walking with words.



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