There I stood at the ancient birthplace of my modern life’s passion. The desert sun seared the air around me, troche 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!