Thursday, February 7, 2019

Pen Mightier Than a Sword? Um, What’s a Pen?

As a writer, pens have been as important for my “toolbox” as hammers for a carpenter, wrenches for a plumber, brushes for a painter, or a scalpel for a surgeon. Despite technological advances, pens remain for me welcomed companions.

I learned to type in high school. Then in journalism school we were taught to compose stories with fingers on the keys. At this very moment, sitting at a computer, my thoughts coalesce much more easily once my fingertips connect with the keyboard. Nevertheless, keyboards haven’t entirely replaced pens for my writing. 

Since tape recorders aren’t always dependable, whenever I interview someone for an article or a book, I resort to pen and notepad. More than one pen, because most don’t come with “low on ink” alerts.

So when I see or hear news reports about schools no longer teaching cursive writing, it’s sad. Just think of the things we are losing: "pen" pals; meaning for the saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword"; authors with "pen names." But what we're losing most is the capacity for thoughtful expression, presented in our unique form and style, known as penmanship.

With computers, smartphones and tablets we quickly click off our communications. Sometimes too quickly. We blurt (through fingertips) what’s on our minds, hit “Send,” and at the speed of cyberspace, it’s off to the intended audience. Sometimes with unintended consequences. If we’d paused to consider what we were transmitting and its potential impact, we might have waited. Speed and convenience aren’t ideal determinants for effective communication. 

But what’s best about handwriting is its personal touch and distinctiveness. Someone else could sit at my computer and write you an email on my behalf, and you might not be the wiser. Same with texts from my iPhone. But if I take the time and energy to sit, pen in hand, and write a personal note or (gasp!) a full letter, you could probably tell it was from me. It’s unlikely anyone would forge my writing to send you a thank-you note.

There’s one more reason I mourn when I hear about kids no longer being taught cursive writing. Some of the most important documents of mankind were written by hand: The Magna Carta. Our U.S. Constitution. Can you imagine, years from now, students – and politicians – unable to read the Constitution because they can’t read in cursive? Maybe that’s already happening.

The Bible in its original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic languages was written and painstakingly copied by hand, then translated into English in the same way. The Ten Commandments were handwritten too – by the hand of God.

Handwriting was used to demonstrate legitimacy of the scriptural documents. In a letter to believers in the Greek city of Thessalonica, the apostle Paul noted, “I, Paul, write these greetings in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters This is how I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17). To the church in the city of Colossae, he penned these words: “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18).

To Christ followers in Galatia, Paul wrote, “See what large letters I use as I write to you in my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11). And consider how much the written Word was cherished even in the early Church: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). No printing presses back then.

The Old Testament gives examples of Israelite leaders remembering God’s decrees and faithfulness as they read time-honored, handwritten prophecies passed down through the generations. This sometimes prompted them to lead their headstrong people to repentance.

We even find examples of prophets who consumed the words of God. For example, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16). 

This isn’t telling us to physically consume the pages of our Bibles, but we should internalize the truths God has given us through His Word. And just think: its original writings weren’t delivered via email, Word document, text or smartphone app. The Lord cared enough to make sure they were written to us personally, by hand.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

So, seems to me it’s not a good idea to curse cursive writing. If anything, in these depersonalized times, the more personal we can be, the better.

No comments: