“The retinal image is an image in a mathematical sense; it is a projection or a mapping. The retinal image is not an image in the sense of picture – or, if it is, this is entirely accidental. How it looks, or how it reads, plays no role in its performance of its neuropsychological job description. Once we appreciate that the retinal image isn’t something that we see, we lose a grip even on what it means to say that it’s upside down. Upside-down, one must ask relative to the tasks faced by the nervous system? […] Again, we don’t experience the retinal image; we don’t experience any image, in that sense. We experience the world.”—
Time Immemorial.: Alva Noë, Out of our heads. Why you are not your brain, and other lessons from the biology of consciousness, Hill and Wang 2009; p 143
In an oral culture, to think through something in non-formulaic, non-patterned, non-mnemonic terms, even if it were possible, would be a waste of time, for such thought, once worked through, could never be recovered with any effectiveness, as it could be with the aid of writing. It would not be abiding knowledge but simply a passing thought, however complex. Heavy patterning and communal fixed formulas in oral cultures serve some of the purposes of writing in chirographic cultures, but in doing so they of course determine the kind of thinking that can be done, the way experience is intellectually organized. In an oral culture, experience is intellectualized mnemonically. This is one reason why, for a St Augustine of Hippo (ad 354-430), as for other savants living in a culture that knew some literacy but still carried an overwhelmingly massive oral residue, memory bulks so large when he treats of the powers of the mind.
Of course, all expression and all thought is to a degree formulaic in the sense that every word and every concept conveyed in a word is a kind of formula, a fixed way of processing the data of experience, determining the way experience and reflection are intellectually organized, and acting as a mnemonic device of sorts. Putting experience into any words (which means transforming it at least a little bit - not the same as falsifying it) can implement its recall. The formulas characterizing orality are more elaborate, however, than are individual words, though some may be relatively simple: the Beowulf-poet’s ‘whale-road’ is a formula (metaphorical) for the sea in a sense in which the term ‘sea’ is not.
”—Walter J. Ong - Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word