(Alphabets of Desire copyright Alan Moore and Todd Klein.)
Welcome to the second chunk of examined text from Alphabets of Desire. Our introduction gives the details of its creation, now we are trying to understand the meaning of the piece. Today’s three Alan Moore sentences go like this:
Using sounds or scrawled marks we distinguish between fire and water, earth and sky, divide the world up into self and other, man and woman, good and evil, black and white and fish and fowl and sheep and goat. The whole of our experience is broken down into roughly two dozen minimal phonetic glyphs that can be recombined in almost endless permutations, can be called upon to conjure the imaginable universe and all that it conceivably contains. The world of our perceptions, the one planet we can ever truly know, is made of nothing except language, having words instead of molecules and letters in the place of atoms.
Upon birth, the human being feels the world directly through its senses. As it grows, the brain begins the process of differentiation. Raw experience is translated into language. The seamless whole universe gets chopped into bite-sized pieces. Easier to digest that way.
Unfortunately, the words create as many obstacles as pathways. Pretty soon the human cannot feel the world directly any longer. A skull full of language colors everything around it.
The Matrix movies did a good job of showing the basic theory here. After language takes over completely, the brain is helpless to know, for sure, what reality is. We think ourselves into a corner, and the walls are made of words.
Is this prison of phonics inescapable? Perhaps. And yet, with the very words that shackle, the poet patterns wings of fancy and flies to the stars, with readers in tow. We may not be able to shake the spell of language, but we can simultaneously celebrate its wonders.