Everyone's had the experience of writing a familiar word, then looking at it and wondering why it looked strange. You think maybe you've misspelled it, though it's a common word you've written thousands of times. Even after you confirm that it's spelled correctly, it still looks funny—like it's written in a foreign language.
As a kid, sometimes while I read, I'd have a word suddenly look strange to me like that. I found that if I kept staring at the word, soon it not only looked like a foreign language, but a foreign alphabet as well—as if I were looking at Russian or Greek written on a page. If I continued to stare, I got to a point where I even stopped recognizing the shapes as letters, but rather some kind of exotic graphic marks—the way Arabic or Chinese, say, seemed to me.
And, if I still continued to concentrate and stare, soon the letters began to look simply like abstract black marks on a white background, which is—and this is the point—exactly what they are. This, of course, is what makes the act of reading so remarkable and learning to read so important. To be able to convey such a rich world of thoughts, descriptions, arguments and evocations from a system of organized marks on a background is utterly remarkable.
But what I'm getting at here is something different: the stripping away of all of that meaning until the thing itself is clearly seen.