Pensive About Pens

Well, it seems I lied. I’m back on the blog after only a few days! Unfortunately, our Power Outage Adventure was a full-scale fail. We didn’t even make the 24 hour mark. A mad mess of issues arose and we agreed to end our little adventure early. We will try again soon!

In the meantime, I’m feeling…

Pensive About Pens

It is a calm, cool morning at the zoo. People with smart phones, oversized sunglasses, and children in strollers eye my pen and worn notebook oddly as they pass. My aging writing apparatus is a momentary distraction from the monkey island housing a handful of playful primates. This location is a nice escape from movement, an excuse to lazily lift a pen and let my thoughts linger undisturbed.

As I sit, I admit to myself that I am a bit out of place. Honestly, I can’t recall the last time I saw someone in public with a writing journal. Phones fill every pocket and purse. People browse the internet, watch movies, and type texts constantly—no place, not even the driver seat of cars, is too sacred for phones to invade. Handwriting in a common college-ruled notebook is another story entirely.

The lament of lost language is on my mind this morning, thanks, in no small part, to a compelling article in National Geographic. It seems selfish to make this argument when my native English is listed as a top ten dominant language, placing third with an imposing 328 million first-language speakers alone. Many minor language are down to a scant handful or are already extinct. That knowledge is painful. Entire cultures, groups of people, ways of expressing and seeing life have been blotted out. I am one of the lucky ones, I know. Even so, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as I observe the almost certain demise of one aspect of my own language: Cursive writing. It is my lifeline, my preferred method of written expression. My mother proudly passed her pretty penmanship on to her daughters, but my husband struggles to read it at all. He isn’t alone.

As another National Geographic blurb stated, “As of the start of 2012, 45 states had adopted the Common Core State Standards for education, which include instruction in typing and use of digital tools for writing but leave out cursive altogether— ‘the start of the end,’ according to handwriting historian Steve Graham. A lost art, then? Not just cursive but all writing might be at risk. Pen and quill are fairly equivalent in modern classrooms, says Graham: ‘19th-century tools in a 21st-century writing world.’”

The above thought saddens me. In my mind, writing is an extraordinary gift. It is a memory capturer, a silent conversation partner, a gathering place for simple syllables and wandering words, a poor man’s counseling session, a secret land where sorting and solidifying thoughts and ideas is possible. In a super-powered, high-paced society, where distractions of all kinds drown out the ability to have real thoughts, the physical act of writing pen on paper allows me to sneak away and make my own solitude, carving a haven out of the chaos and rushes of nameless nonsense, wastefulness, and foolish consumerism. It is a place for a voice in the silence. A space for exploration, discovery and depth, even when the world feels shallow. A point where lessons learned, things seen, and dreams dreamed draw together in a careless, unrefined cacophony of completeness and brilliant insanity. I don’t get the same affect with computers. Some people may, but I’m simply not one of them. In my world, computers are extraordinary tools for editing and refining, but they choke out all areas of creative thought. That is why I lament even the idea of a largely paper-free society.

A baby in a stroller stares curiously at me as accompanying family members chat and admire the clever antics of the unruly monkeys. This child may never pick up a pen throughout her entire education. I’m only 30, but I already find myself echoing my great grandmother as she looked back over her life with its ninety plus years of tumultuous technological advances. “When I was a little girl, I never would have imagined it all.”

(Originally posted on my old blog, Interim Arts, on May 22, 2013)

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