The Golden Thread

The Golden ThreadOvercast skies provides the impetus for staying inside and catching up on some reading beyond sacrosanct morning Starbucks time.  The Golden Thread, The Story of Writing, is a book that only a former monk could have written.  And overcast skies imparts the opportunity for monastic reading.  As Ewan Clayton explains, that is a different kind of reading in which you take your time, reading short passages slowly and over again in the mind, spending time with each and allowing the words to speak to you.  A rich range of associations can arise from this form of meditative engagement, very different from the forced-paced reading designed to extract information from the text so commonplace today.


To enjoy this visual form of wine tasting, you have to be willing to indulge yourself in quite a bit of ancient Roman history.  Yet Clayton as your guide manages to make this a contemplative adventure, even invoking imagery of the will of Augustus being written, sealed, and place for security in the temple of the Vestal Virgins.  When was the last time you thought about Vestal Virgins?  No doubt it was the verse at the 2:42 mark of this Procul Harem classic:

Clayton’s gift in weaving the story of writing goes well beyond the ascetic ruminations of an ex-monk with a background in calligraphy.  He brings you right through the current day based on his background as having served as a consultant to Xerox at their Palo Alto Research Center.  I couldn’t give you a better synopsis than this marvelous review by Dallas Morning News contributor Bill Marvel.  If you feel like giving yourself a sensuous treat, obtain a copy of The Golden Thread and savor it whenever your skies are overcast.


About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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2 Responses to The Golden Thread

  1. doctuhdon says:

    Does Clayton discuss the Sofer & Jewish ritual calligraphy ?

    BTW, I loved hearing the Procol Harum masterpiece.


  2. No, Dan – he does not address that per se. He addresses the broad context of the evolution of the material aspect of parchment, vellum, quills, inks as well as the religious vs. secular nature of private and public applications of writing and reading from these scrolls and tablets. You will have to read between the lines to infer the role of the Sofer. Clayton has a beautiful website:
    Glad you enjoyed the Harum; I hadn’t fully appreciated either the lyrics or the musical (Bach) influence back in the day.

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