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On Pens

Upon entering my favorite bar a few nights ago, the host casually asked why I had so many pens clipped on the front pocket of my small brown sling bag. Embarrassed and unable to answer--how do you answer a question like that anyway?--I said that I must look like such a nerd, like those scientists who have four pens hanging on their breast pocket with a plastic underlining to prevent ink stains--nifty, huh? When I was led to my favorite seat, I looked at the pens on my bag and really asked myself why do I bring so many?

Well, because nothing is worst than not having a pen when you need one, or when someone else needs one. Of course I exaggerate. But there have been a lot of times when having (or not having) the darn thing makes a difference. Situations: an idea that is forgotten and lost forever; the beautiful lady who asks "Do you have a pen?" and then you get her number using the same pen; a plane hijacker with his back turned to you--vulnerable after all--when the moment of heroism calls you, etc.

Also because I do not borrow other people's pens. Not because I have a better pen (which might be the case most of the time), but because for me that is like borrowing some-body's underwear. Again, not because I am afraid that it is festooned by germs accumulated from one's sweaty fingers, but because for me the pen--more than any instrument I can think of right now--is the only true extension--a private member?--of a person's body. More than the clothes on his skin, the house over his shell, and the car below his feet, the pen, that pointed instrument, is the dagger of his mind.

There is wisdom in the saying that you can know a lot from a man by the shoes on his feet, the watch on his wrist and the pen in his hand. (And this is not from the practical "wisdom" of capitalism--which implies that the more expensive these three things are, the better the man, e.g., Bally or Gucci, Piaget or Cartier, Mont Blanc or Waterman.)

Shoes: with how one shines it. Watch: with its seriousness. And pen: well, perhaps with its mere presence or absence. A fountain pen is as good as a ballpoint pen--they both answer the question "Can I write?" While a man's shoes take him where he wants to go and his watch tells him if it is time, a man's pen enables him to do what he has to do in the proper place and at the right time.

There is, after all, only one question for mortal man: what will you leave behind after you are dead. Buildings crumble and people quickly forget. But word spoken and written last forever. Just ask the shoe-less Socrates, the timeless Plato and the pen-less Christ.


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