At our residence dinner table, the conversation ranged far and wide. Trying to make her point one of the ladies exclaimed, “Well, you know, a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Our conversation dissolved into laughter. The attention switched immediately from the subject under discussion, to the saying used.
“Does anyone know where that saying came from?”
“Sounds like it’s very old.”
“Surely someone must know? I’ve heard that it comes from the Orient.”
Volunteering to undertake the search, I returned to my suite and, what else, turned to Google. The results were surprising. The saying is not old. No one knows who first used it. It appeared in American newspapers sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While the original author is unknown, it is generally agreed that the saying is American. As I concluded my research, I mused that although it’s overworked, this cliché captures a truth: Sometimes one picture conveys a meaning better than many words can.
It was a short jump for me from there to thinking about prehistoric and early historic people: Groups that didn’t have written language. For them, pictures were the only means available for recording events and for describing the world they lived in. I thought about the cave art of Chauvet, France, and the pictographs in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. Why did people so diverse want to do this? I can only surmise, but a reasonable guess is a desire to pass something on to succeeding generations.
I realized that I have the same desire: It’s part of why I write. But I also realized that I had never thought about other ways to communicate my ideas. I came away wondering what I would do if all I had were pictures. How would I document my life and, simultaneously, communicate what I think is important?
So I decided to give it a try, picking just a few things—my appreciation for my family, past and present; my experience of the power of optimism to make my life fun and worth living; and my belief in the importance of listening to others.
Do these pictures convey my meaning? Maybe, maybe not. But trying it has helped me realize another important belief for me: I should never be afraid to try. I’d like to think that those ancient cave-artists would understand.