In Search of the Original Written Word

by Joan Kremer on January 8, 2010 · 17 comments

in Adventures,Second Life,Writing in general

There I stood at the ancient birthplace of my modern life’s passion.  The desert sun seared the air around me, price
but I shivered with the thrill of standing before the earliest writing known on earth:  massive walls covered with the hieroglyphic alphabet of Ancient Egypt.

I put my hand as close to the wall as I could without touching the carved and painted figures.  A fraction of an inch of space was all that separated me from the work of my colleagues of 5, clinic 000 (give or take a few hundred) years ago.  And even though I did not actually touch the letters carved into that stone (to avoid causing more unnecessary wear and tear), I felt a connection to those writers and artists of eons past whom we are only beginning to discover and understand.


Then the questions began zooming through my mind:

  • Who were these people who invented the first known system of writing?
  • How did they come up with such a sophisticated system?
  • And why did it seem to just suddenly appear 5,000-6,000 years ago, practically fully developed?

This past December, I spent three weeks in Egypt, touring a host of ancient ruins, and got not a single inkling of an answer to any of my questions.

What I did acquire was a tremendous sense of awe for these beautiful stories, told in the mystical language of ancient Egypt and engraved on walls and monuments that would keep the words alive for thousands of years – so that I, a modern scribe and story-writer, could catch a glimpse of myself as a teensy link in the immensely long chain of writers through history.

“Everything is interwoven, and the web is holy.”  
~  Marcus Aurelius

A dear friend, novelist Mary Gardner, wrote those words of Aurelius on her holiday cards this year.  When, a few days after I returned from Egypt, I opened Mary’s card and read the quote, I re-experienced the thrilling shivers I felt when I stared at the writings of ancient Egypt.  I realized that the chain of writers in which, for a moment, I saw myself as a link, doesn’t just go back and forth in time, but spreads out in all directions and all dimensions. And it is “whole-y,” which is the original meaning of the world holy.

I began to ponder this interwoven web and the amazing synchronicities and blessings that it generates in just one area of my life – writing.  I thought of the writers and writing teachers I’ve gotten to know over the years, the editors who have helped me and published my work, the connections I’ve made at writing conferences and through my own work as an editor.

As numerous and wonderful as all those connections are, however, my web expanded by leaps and bounds only after I added a link to a different sort of web – the digital Web or cyberspace – and especially, in the past several years, into the amazing web of computer hardware and software that comprise Second Life.

In the few short years of the World Wide Web’s existence, I’ve linked into a vast writing and publishing community previously inaccessible to me.  That community grew even larger when I discovered its niche in Second Life. As a result of SL, I’ve met authors I’ve admired for years and ones whose writing is a newly discovered pleasure.  I’ve become friends with fellow writers from around the world, and in the virtual world, we’ve shared and learned a great deal from each other about our writing in the physical world.

The strands of my writing web have connected me with a host of wonderful people – readers of my blogs, contacts on Twitter and other social media sites, and especially the friends I’ve made in Second Life – friendships that extend beyond the virtual into our physical lives.

But my most amazing realization is that those strands are made of the same raw material that weaves us together with people who lived thousands of years ago:  the written word.


Indeed, every thing and every life ever lived on this planet are interwoven in a vast, ancient, multi-dimensional web; one that exists because of some incredible life force we cannot see, but which is made known to us through the stories that writers have carved in stone, etched in clay, inked on parchment and papyrus and paper, and keyed into electromagnetic memory.

Today I give thanks for all the people I’ve met who’ve helped me become a better writer. But especially, I salute those ancient geniuses of Egypt whose invention of writing initiated the web of writers and words that give my life much of its purpose and joy. I think they would have enjoyed seeing how far their invention has traveled so far.

And I’m grateful for their work – despite the fact they still have given me not a whisper of an answer to any of my questions!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristen (3 comments.) January 9, 2010 at 6:45 pm

This is a really beautiful entry.

2 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) January 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Thank yo so much, Kristen!

3 Dixie West January 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Joan, this really is a beautiful, touching piece of writing. It is amazing to see those lovely works of Egyptian art and to feel so connected to it after all of these many eons.

4 Deb Stelton (1 comments.) January 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm

These works can give me goose-bumps! I’ll never forget looking through a slit in Zoser’s serdab and seeing the eyes of his magical heaven-transporting Ka statue looking back at me!
But the invention of writing can do the same.
Where did it all start?
Go back another 15 000 years or so and look at the similar cross-hatching, spirals and zig-zagings in the innermost depths of caves where you would have had to crawl on your stomach to get there, carrying your fire and art supplies. The same markings in caves from France to Spain.
Goose bumps!

5 Barbara Lee January 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

And through your own beautiful writing and photos you send an affirmation of the vast interconnected web back out into the world. There it inspires and heals! Thank you, Joan.

6 Elana (1 comments.) January 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I do not see how this kind of stuff is relevant today. For example, how does it help our economy? Seems selfish.

7 jessi (1 comments.) January 19, 2010 at 10:19 am

I absolutely agree with Dixie. It´s fantastic to see great art of egyptian. Thanks a lot for this post.

8 Lane muligheder (1 comments.) February 20, 2010 at 5:00 am

Hi it is so good to see ancient Egyptian art. It is a connection between past and present world. The great monuments and the language which they used are marvelous. Yes in second life we can see Egypt

9 Matt (1 comments.) March 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

nice post, i think this is a really interesting topic. i am baffled by some of the achievements that some early cultures have been able to have.

10 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) March 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Thank you so much, Barb! And you extend that affirmation!

11 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) March 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Thanks for writing, Deb! Yes, I’m sure we haven’t yet found the source of the written word — it’ll be good to see what archaeologists find. But I think I’ll pass on crawling on my stomach into deep caves!!

12 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) March 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thank you so much, Dixie. It’s incredible how time seems to condense into nothing when in the presence of that ancient Egyptian art!

13 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) March 8, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Thank you so much, Kristen!

14 Peggy Hood March 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm

I’m so honored to be part of your web and/or ripples reaching back to Ancient Egypt’s source of writing and so happy that you were able to enjoy the trip as much as I did in 2008 and 2009. Re: Elana (1-14-10)… tourism is SO IMPORTANT to the economy of Egypt that it is the major source of income to many, many people. Visiting there and spending our dollars makes one feel a part of the global economy in a very special way.

15 Jason (1 comments.) May 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

It’ amazing to think about how long written language has been around for or even the spoken word. It would of been amazing to be there to witness.

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