The Simple Pencil

It’s been said that back in the 1960s during the space race, NASA spent a whack load of government money on designing a pen that would write in zero gravity. After all, how will ink run down a page if there is no gravity to pull it that way? How would the astronauts make notes on all the scientific stuff they had to do up there? A new and improved writing instrument must be designed! The Russian astronauts took a simpler approach: they used a pencil.

Photo: Yoann Siloine

All joking aside, I was musing this week about the simple pencil. I’m not sure why… it just happened to come to my brain. So, I looked it up. Faber-Castell, the who’s who of pencils, has been producing top-quality pencils for over 257 years. The leads (both coloured and the typical grey) are made with a clay-graphite mixture that is mixed, dried and basically glued between a sandwich of wood. The wood has to be strong enough to not snap under the weight of the writer’s hand, yet flexible enough to bend slightly for the stroke of the letter. That wood can be shaped in the round, hexagonal or square shape that we all know and love. Not to mention, sharpened to the perfect “tip”. Final exam writers, rejoice!

I love a sharp pencil. It just evokes great memories of the start of something new. A blank canvas if you will. Plus, it makes for remarkable colouring and shading. (re mark able — see what I did there?) Anyway… Have you ever thought about a simple pencil and the possibilities it holds? A funny little muse, isn’t it? Did all sumptuous writers think about the ink or the pen or the pencil they used? Plain paper or ruled? A notebook? Does everyone use a keyboard now? Have we lost touch with the true art of letter writing and letter making? They don’t even teach penmanship in schools anymore (and believe me, it shows!)

The ancient scriptures are one of the most unique collections of writing on the planet! I have no idea how the writers penned the scrolls… ink? chalk? Graphite pencil? Whatever method they used, we can be assured that the words bring promise and hope from an eternal God who cares for His people. And the simple words are our guides for both now and for all future generations! It always amazes me that the Bible is timeless. People have been reading it for hundreds of years… and the words still ring true. It’s because there is something supernatural immersed in those written words. Psalm 119 tells us it is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path… our truth and our hope”.

Nothing like a sharp pencil — and the words it can make!

I’m guilty of not diving into the Word enough. There is such richness in the written word, and I don’t take full advantage of it as I should. Perhaps I should write out passages. Does anyone do this? I hear it is a great discipline to adhere to, especially in these days of digital screens. Graphite pencils and loss of handwriting skills be banished! Please share in the comments if you’ve tried this. I’d love to hear how it impacted you! Perhaps you’ve journalled with coloured pencils and brought scriptures to life. Share!

And so, my faith journey continues as I think about simple things and how they influence the complex. Oh, and that thing about the space pen? Apparently, some guy named Paul C. Fisher did spend millions in developing what later became known as “the space pen”… which uses a pressurized cartridge to make the ink flow. Even the Russians began using them. Who knew? We earthlings can purchase one for about $50. Maybe I should get one for jotting down sermon notes. Nah, I’ll stick with the simple pencil.

Words

I learned a new word this week. Lagomorphs are the classification for rabbits, hares and pikas. It just sounds like a great name, doesn’t it? Lagomorph. Like a Harry Potter villain with long ears and a pointy, whiskery snout. I like a good word. Borborygmus is another one of my favourites. (I’ll let you look it up on your own… increase your knowledge and everything… way to keep learning 🙂 ) Words are cool. Ha! Even as I proofread this post I am looking at the word “word”… make your lips say it…”word”, w’s are funny sounds. English sounds are odd. Words are still cool.

This cute little guy is a pika of the classification “lagomorph” Photo By: Karunakar Rayker – originally posted to Flickr as The Pika

I was musing about words this week… words, writing, books, literature. As you know, our first born is preparing to enter in to her very own space at the end of this month, and her biggest collection to move? Her books. She’s been an avid reader since day one and loves a good collection of stories. And yes, she buys the whole collection. And keeps it forever. I guess there could be worse things to collect than books. She’s among good company, though. Here are some other people who had (or have?) some large collections: Michael Jackson was apparently a big poetry fan and had a stash of over 10 000 books at the Neverland Ranch. Ernest Hemingway always had a few hundred books in his stash as he travelled, with over 9 000 in the full collection. Thomas Jefferson apparently sold a large pile to the Library of Congress, twice, to pay off some debts. (hint, hint, dear firstborn….). Oprah’s book club turned her into a top collector, as well. I hear Bill Gates reads a book a week and has someone in charge of switching up his weekly “book bag”. The largest private collection of books belongs to John Q. Benham of Avoca, Indiana, USA. Guinness world records clocks him with over 1.5 million! Wouldn’t want to move that guy.

It’s interesting to me to see who reads what. And how their vocabulary is influenced. I have a friend who is an avid reader and edits for a living. I love to hear her talk. Her words are eloquent. My Covid kids can now quote various movie reels. Books? Not so much. Perhaps we are loosing out on some of that in this “age of screen”. My own fault as parent, I guess. Noted to self. Literature is so rich, and we should be blessed and thankful we have access to it. Do you agree? What’s your favourite read? Are you a writer? I don’t think of myself as a writer, despite a weekly blog that somehow comes together from the thoughts in my head. I like words though. And good calligraphy makes words look even better… but I digress.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

I heard an interesting discussion this week about the authors of the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each describing the life and story of Jesus according to their own idiosyncrasies and distinct personalities. Each used their own choices of words and phrases to describe a certain story or parable. Each Jesus quote may actually be different depending on the gospel you are reading. Skeptics may point to the differences in the Gospels as proof that the Bible is false…but most scholars agree to the exact opposite: the discrepancies actually give credit to the story’s truth. Too much of the “same” would indicate that the writers were trying to make up a story, as opposed to tell the true story as they remember it. Interesting to see how a doctor, like Luke, writes his account compared to John, Jesus’s bestie.

We often talk about the Bible as the God-breathed word, and it is. But it is also a very diverse piece of literature, written by human authors. An anthology if you will. (Another great vocab word!) It spans generations in time, and is targeted for different ethnic groups and diverse cultures. Not to mention poetry, prose and history lessons. Even futuristic tales, I suppose! Each time I read it, something new seems to come from it. I’m sure you have felt the same. The beauty of words, yet not just words. Words shared by people to tell a story, the same story, yet a story unique to each person on the planet. That, my friend, is the power of the Word.