Over the past week or so, I’ve been reading – and rereading – The Book of Letters by Lawrence Kushner. Drawing on Talmudic commentary, Hasidic folk tales and insights from the Kabbalah, Kushner explores the meaning and metaphor of the Hebrew letters in this exquisitely calligraphed book.
He writes that the letters exist independently of ink, paper and even, words. That they have been around since before the creation of the world and are linked with the creative process. That each letter has it own shape and sound, waiting to be heard and gazed upon. That when Moses shattered the first set of tablets at Mount Sinai, the letters ascended to “the One who gave them,” like vessels carrying light and wisdom.
The idea that letters could be, in and of themselves, holy, has really stuck with me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many letters are needed to make words that build the sentences we send into the Twitter-sphere and blogosphere. I find myself wondering if it’s possible to overproduce them. Or if overusing them diminishes their potency. Or if we should be thinking about them like we do our limited natural resources like water, trees and clean air.
Are we closing in on too many words and not enough meaning?
I have no answers, but I wanted to pose the questions to my fellow writers. I want to find a way to infuse our writing, and our writing practices, with more thoughtfulness and, perhaps, reserve. So we focus more on finding just the right words to express exactly what we mean.