The 24 letters

It is true that we cannot do everything well. We have limited resources. Our abilities are finite and sometimes I wonder if it is what we have or how we use it that determines whether we constantly doubt ourselves or are full of self-confidence.

Surely you remember how we learned the alphabet as children. We repeated it over and over again till we remembered it by heart. We learned it with the help of correlations, as A is for apple, B is for boat, C is for cat. What we all know is that the English alphabet has only 26 letters.

It seems to me a relatively small number of letters, a rather limited set of resources, on which an entire language has been created. From these few letters we make words, we construct words into sentences and sentences into stories, conversations, letters, novels, textbooks, emails, songs, dramas and so many other forms.

How many words do we create from these 26 letters? No one seems to know. In a 4-5 minute speech we would use about 600-700 words. Assuming we talk for a few hours a day, we are probably creating about 15,000 to 17,000 words. That generates about 115,000 words a week or more than 6 million a year. Without even considering the words we read or hear. How many sentences can we create from the words we created from these 24 letters?

I do not know if anyone has ever counted or guessed the number of sentences we use but by creating these sentences we can create dialogues, plays and novels.

From these 26 small letters we can create so much. We make words and sentences that inform us, educate us, communicate emotions, entertain us and make life both easier and, sometimes, more complicated.

I bet you have no idea how many words you have created in your lifetime from these 26 letters, or how many words or sentences or paragraphs you have created in your life.

So why am I quoting all these facts?

To conclude with a single question:

When do we undermine ourselves, when we say “I am desperate. I know only 24 letters” or when we recognize that we have the ability to use a very finite set of resources in an inventive and creative way?

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