Twenty-Six Letters

Do you see this simple truth?

Thousands upon thousands of magnificent stories—the kinds your mother read to you as a child, the kinds a soldier carried into war, the kinds you fell asleep with under the bedclothes—have all been made from 26 letters. Twenty-six unchanging letters, tiny and discreet. How could such humble materials give birth to so many unforgettable moments of beauty?

We forget that we already have what we need. The building blocks of creation are simple and perfect in their smallness. We can honor them and use them in elegant ways, taking only what is essential to our design. If we are foolish, or extravagant, we begin to think that what we have is not enough, and we complicate and contrive, spoiling the integrity of  our project.

Twenty-six letters can be built to towering heights: a glistening castle of magic and stone. That is to say, small pieces—if they are put together in an intelligent way—can aspire to grand proportions. The smallness of our materials does not limit the scope of our dreams.

The trick is to use our materials as they ask to be used. Do not stand in the way and try to order them into something they are not. Each of the 26 letters comes with an indwelling of sound: a particular hum or ring that can make a happy strain of music if combined with another in a delicate way.

Do not complicate. Remember that even the most high-turreted castle was made of simple brick. The most vital body was made of muscle and bone. The most enchanting story in all the world was made of the alphabet you learned when you just barely old enough to speak.