January 8, 2019

The Birth Of Writing

Ancient Egyptians believed that writing was a gift taught to them by the god Thoth, calling their script the "words of gods," composed of hieroglyphs, or "sacred inscriptions."

His gift was meant to share wisdom with the Egyptian people, and help preserve their memory. But when he announced his deed to the god Ra, the latter told him he feared writing would actually shorten people's memories, for they would rely too much on what was written instead.

I can see both points. For myself, I rely severely on my intense note-taking to "remember" important points. Yet should I lose those notes, all that knowledge would be irrevocably lost. People also state that it's better to rely on writings, for people will make up memories or change the story over time.

But the issue is also found in written historical accounts--for aren't these subjective retellings of events? If these people chose not to write about an event, then for all intents and purposes, it's the same as erasing a part of history, right?(1) Scientists/historians try to ascertain the truth by finding different sources describing the same event that would corroborate, but that's still far from foolproof. Makes it interesting to see how different history could have been vs. what textbooks tell us, huh?

Incidentally, people tend to trust the written word more than hearsay, even if the one who wrote the book/article/post doesn't know a thing about the topic, while the speaker might be an expert in said subject. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that humans (an estimated 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual (2) )...

In any case, I find this fascinating, and is possibly one of the reasons why I enjoy mixing facts and fiction in my stories, blending them in such ways that it's sometimes difficult to tell where one ends and the other starts.

If it were up to you, how would you like to alter history (could be in big or small ways), to make it more fun or interesting?

(1) For instance, in 1054, there was a supernova explosion that was witnessed on earth (its remains now form the Crab Nebula). It was so powerful it lit up the whole sky up, then remained visible for two years after. Europe, however, is the only (sub-)continent that doesn't mention it. Why? Because back then, European scientists believed that the world/universe was fixed, and therefore no new event could ever happen or be recorded. Since they couldn't explain this particular event, the European astronomers decided not to write it down. As if it never happened.
(2) Humans Process Visual Data Better

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