The S Story
I was tracking expenses, and noticed that the comments in the right-hand column of the spreadsheet were not uniform; some began with capital letters and others had sentences typed completely in lowercase. This bothered me so I changed an “s” to an “S” and felt a bit better.
I changed the size, not even the shape, of an “s.”
I paused and looked out the window, my eyes taking an extra moment to focus on something farther than my computer screen, eight inches away.
How did it come to this? How many arbitrary rules led me to being really, truly, irritated by a tiny letter s? A long time ago, someone had to decide that we should stop drawing pictures and start using letters and words to better describe things. Then someone thought it would be helpful to add rules to how we used written communication. Formal writing will save us time, no? Further, there were to be big and small versions of each letter, some with different shapes, and some lazily with just a different size: majuscule and minuscule. Everyone decided that there would be times to use the big letters and times to use the small letters, although the French disagree with the English, and once we got the printing press we would use other letters to name the big letters uppercase and the small letters lowercase. Who chose to ignore the obvious “undercase?” Oh, and let’s call the whole thing capitalization for more precision.
Grammar, these arbitrary rules, would become associated with intelligence and civilization and taught as virtues in schools. I would grow up constantly reading, being read to, or writing, and always being bothered by people who took the time to publish a work but not to proofread properly.
I was brought into this world and would go on to attend formal schooling for 17 years to sit in a poorly lit office, typing in check numbers and budget notes on a electronic screen. I grind my teeth because I see that my predecessor gave no care to proper capitalization, and was not consistent in the least.
Pain creeps in behind my eyes, sliding its hands under the eyeballs and gripping with its fingertips.
I’m suddenly emotional, thinking about ancient peoples and how they never could have conceived this present I am currently living in. No one in the year 500 would have supposed that I could have a headache from a lowercase s. How far have humans strayed from their original purpose? I think back to yoga class and try to remember what it felt like to be in a higher state of consciousness.
I can’t. I go back to the spreadsheet and continue typing. Tab – type – tab – type.
Is this all there is?