[First published in Taproot Reviews.]
Think of a text as a kind of mosaic in which words have been arranged into pleasing patterns. A text consists of stray words found at random in the author's native language and melded into a flat surface of varying textures, something larger than its individual parts, existing on a higher plane entirely. A single word is a small thing with limited implications. But a group of words interact among themselves to form what they could never form singly. The meanings, images, sounds, and colors of the individual words create sweeping vistas of information when joined into a single text. They reverberate off one another, bump against each other, merge and mingle, rattle and shake. And the look the words have on the page--dense and buzzing, black and white, jagged and snakelike as they move down the paper--is an effect impossible for a single word to create.
In stone mosaics, what is most fascinating is the essential mystery--the jarring difference between the pattern the individual pieces form as a group (a portrait of the Virgin Mary, for example) and what the pieces are individually--just small colored stones. The mosaic seems to give the simple stones an importance far beyond what they could have attained in the normal course of events, a significance, a role that is quite out of keeping with what a humble stone might reasonably expect from it's existence--just as a single star in the night sky may be striking to see, but a constellation transforms its individual component stars into something of a higher species altogether.
Structure is the key, the gathering together of independent elements and putting them into an overall structure. It is structure which makes stones into a mosaic, stars into a constellation, and mere words into a text.
Or individual human beings into a mob.