literacy: knowing what is read
if knowing the sound of each letter of alphabet, and spelling of every word, isolated is enough, then the vocabulary of those -- the language teachers, book editors, proofreaders and the winners of the spelling bees would be considered wise. likewise, those who memorize the words of the wise would be wise, too.
but as the typing of the letters of an alphabet in alphabetical order does not spell a word, nor randomly typed words make a meaningful expression, no one person's such accumulated knowledge or randomly picked such persons from different places amount to more than a compilation of dictionary or a list of names within a category of professionals.
the modern education prepares students to fit in a given category of identities. the primary condition to acquire an identity is to activate only that segment of brains that records given input as memory. it starts with recognizing letters, numbers and commands coded in how-to-formulas, and ends with sorting out only one aspect of commercialized way of life that earns one a living as a professional, as teacher, preacher, policeman, politician or salesman or factory worker.
those who somehow could not be trained and categorized, train themselves as any of the above or become thieves and rebels who seek the same in a different format of means. when they become more powerful, they become the law of the land. all the members of the united nations, especially the bigger ones were once the small gang of rebels who had some axes to grind with the authorities. once obtaining the authoritative status, their communication, too, becomes one way, that of giving commands
it is not that the literacy is the only medium of communication between two persons or among the group of people. its nonuse is observed within the members of the same household. much of their communication is nonverbal. so, too, people who work together develop the sixth sense of understanding without uttering a word. lovers' motions and emotions thus at once become both action and response. no writing love poems nor singing love songs is needed there. words of threat or wooing cease when the mutuality of the coexistence is cognized.
"making the excuse of his beautiful queen some emperor has made fun of the sweat of the poor." a hindi poet had written about the taj mahal. others have described the white marble as the letters with which love song was written. whatever the viewer's take of the taj mahal, or the printed page of bible or gita or koran, comes not from the marble building or the scripted page, but emerges from the upbringing forming a tinted vision. and that upbringing not being ecocentric is not universal.
it is not that people are incapable of comprehending the written expression in a known script. it is often that, what is written in the printed pages of most books is written by persons who lacked the firsthand experience of what they wrote or spoke. and then the reading of the memorized page makes it difficult to read. so people do not really read. and people do not understand the written material also because they are not convinced that they need to read it. school children who are bright otherwise get failing grades due to this; adults play music or munch on food while reading. at the other times people lose interest due to the obvious irrelevance between the printed matter and the hard reality or the conflicting descriptions regarding the unknown, unobservable matter. religious, and lately, the astrophysical theories thus dull interest. teachers, preachers politicians and commercials drive away attention.
but otherwise, when it comes to reading the account books or the bank statement, the vey people read very attentively, and observe even minute dot or comma misplaced or added mistakenly. in this instance, people understand what they are reading because it is the matter of their concern, and they know how it progresses. there, every line, every page develops further their understanding. it is the nature of mathematics not to repeat, both in writing and reading. and people, having known the process of the working of numbers know right from wrong. thus it is that mathematicians and accountants do not disagree that 2 + 2 always equals 4, and yet, it is not the process, the form of calculation, but the progress of formation that is stated in the account book or the bank statement. and that is what people read and understand.
pages and volumes written about god in various scripts are devoid of this process of the formation of the matter called god. and hence, nothing new is evolving from that. the writers of the religious books cannot but embellish or improvise the story once written, like the modern musicians improvising a composition of bach or mozart. the believers of god or classical music having heard it so often hear like a lullaby and put themselves in slumber. it is not for listening to music or sermon that they go to the concert hall or the church. it is for the social gathering, for showing off their camaraderie, and feel safe and secure in the familiar ground.
humans are group dwelling creatures. group's structure and size correspond with the ecocentric nature of the human biology. that is why, a group too small, like a nuclear family or too large like a nation of millions does not serve the needs of the individual member of the group. a nation like the u.s., china or india is artificially put together in the form of the script written by individuals who believed that their commandments called constitutions would be of biblical proportions in following "like sheep led towards the green field." but even a devout believer of god makes his living in worldly comforts in stark contrast with his beliefs. thus "the one nation under god" that the u.s. is believed to be by the very people who also possess the atomic weapons that annihilate all living beings several times over in mockery of the first commandment: 'thou shall not kill.' it is contradictions like this that make for the growing sense of meaninglessness of all printed words, even if some of them are practically useful, such as the traffic laws.
ponder over the motivation for reading anything at all: other than the need for knowing something that one thinks others may be knowing, more often than not one reads or does almost everything else, including eating is to escape from the nagging feeling of being left alone when naturally one does not need to be alone. this creates a sense of emptiness, meaninglessness, void; there is the biological urge to do something as one cannot sit still, motionless and emotionless. it is the brains' function to sense and coordinate the motions of limbs and organs in response to the perceived need. for the literate people it is the books, as for others it is the music, screen watching, drugs, zen of emptying of thoughts with thought, or some hobby like puzzles. but whatever the form of escape, it is not unfamiliar, and hence not calling for activating the sense perception that awakens in the realm of the unknown. whenr one is motivated to know in the unrepeatable realm, one loses interest in the known world made of habits --- the tradition, custom, belief, culture and counterculture. none of these activities of body or thought call for the aware living like all other creatures who are untamed. a people brought up to being "led towards the green fields" formed of spoken and written words cannot but keep walking in the familiar path lest they find themselves in an unfamiliar unknown ground.