Monday, December 21, 2015

There is a point to this post

Way back when I was a kid who was just about getting into the teen years and was all excited about bell bottoms, my father's childhood friend and his wife visited with us in Neyveli.  It was the first time that I met with them (and the only time with him) because the visitors were from the United States--they had immigrated quite a few years prior.

Two pieces of technology that they had impressed me--the Polaroid camera, and a ballpoint pen.  I was more impressed with the pen than with the camera.

For one, I only got to see how the camera worked, but the pen was mine to keep.  More than that, writing with that pen was a pleasure.  The tip glided along on paper.  But, as was bound to happen, after a few days, the ink ran out.

I decided to re-use that ballpoint.  Despite all my natural instincts to stay away from doing any physical task--the story of my life--I knew I had to something.  I figured that I needed to inject the writing ink into the tube.  I grabbed a regular Indian refill.  I removed the tips from this refill and from the American one, and after aligning them I kept blowing into the Indian tube to push the ink into the American tube.  Most of the ink flowed in and, of course, a bit oozed out.

I could not wait to clean up the work.  I re-inserted the ballpoint tip and after a few shakes to force the ink into the tip, I scribbled on a piece of paper.  Success!  The American ballpoint pen was functional again.

These days, I rarely use a pen to write anything, similar to how it became rare to use a pencil after the first few grades in school.  The computer and the smartphone have replaced the pens.  I cannot even recall the last time that I purchased a ballpoint pen and, yet, I seem to have quite a collection at home thanks to the freebies at conferences and hotels.

The pen has become a lowly object that now suffers the same Rodney Dangerfield curse that afflicts me.  I wonder if a generation from now whether children will be able to understand a phrase like "the pen is mightier than the sword."  But then the sword is also outdated.  With pens and swords condemned to history, will we then employ something along the line of "a tweet is mightier than a gun" or "a Facebook post is ....?

Nah!  The fountain and ballpoint pens might go extinct. The sword might become dull.  But, it will always be "the pen is mightier than the sword."

At this point, if you are like me, you wonder who it was that coined the phrase "a pen is mightier than a sword."  Google knows everything; a search yields this answer from the BBC:
The English words "The pen is mightier than the sword" were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu.
A little bit more detail, please:
Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, discovers a plot to kill him, but as a priest he is unable to take up arms against his enemies.
His page, Francois, points out: But now, at your command are other weapons, my good Lord.Richelieu agrees: The pen is mightier than the sword... Take away the sword; States can be saved without it!

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