Signifying Nothing

S, an artist friend, creates collages that include overlays of transparent paper on which asemic script is scrawled with a black ink pen. Asemic (a-semic: not signifying) writing has the characteristics of an alphabet but it missing a corresponding language. The asemic elements of S’s collages play tricks on the brain, offering a suggestion of meaning and pulling it away in the same moment of attention. S says that writing asemically is cathartic, that she pours her anger and sadness into its empty container.

S once loaned me her copy of the Codex Seraphinianus by the Italian artist Luigi Serafini. In Serafini’s Codex, 416 pages long and weighing almost six pounds, graceful semantic-free script flows across page after glossy page along with meticulously drawn colored illustrations of plants, creatures, and machines belonging only inside Serafini’s asemic world. The drawings are labeled in the manner of 19th century botanical illustrations, with (non)explanatory inscriptions beneath them. Besides the strange beauty of it, the Codex grants relief from the strain of sense-making, poking fun at the seriousness with which we set out to grasp meaning. 

Some weeks after returning the Codex to her, I texted S about an oddity of cell phone keyboards I had discovered. Instead of typing, I instructed, make swirls and zigzags with your finger. The confused autocorrect program responds by entering random words. S and I call it asemic texting. 

That makes me so Dung tryst oh such is cool trashcan.

Are you still vino Esch ovarian?

I have Krug egg magic mouth is Yvonne such kudu to lychee.

Exactly. Then you Nikon still Kelly dump recycling think.

Except that ratchet masochist of epoch o’clock!

Ok, but condos school sick Veronica’s oviducts.

Then there’s my sister. When faced with personal, professional, or global troubles, she pursues sense with laser-intensity. She reads to get to the bottom of it—puts books on her kindle, subscribes to online publications, signs up for newsletters, listens to podcasts. She’s a determined gatherer of semantics, a fast reader. 

Since the war started, she has been texting me links to articles. I think I should be more like her, so I try to keep up.

What Israel should do

There Is a Jewish Hope for Palestinian Liberation.

The Moral Questions at the Heart of the Gaza

The Left Abandoned

Using laugh kernel profound keypads.

Israel Must Not React

Scuba funk who king Advil 

lap knock into Indigo.

From Israel, writer Etgar Keret talks about the role of fiction in times of war.

Goblin running wouldn’t bend west official.

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About the Author

Susan Hendel is a technical writer and designer of software training programs by day and has been studying creative writing on the side for most of her life. Currently she is a student in the New York-based Writers Studio program with a focus on creative non-fiction. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and has a Master's degree in American Studies from Brown University.