When I show friends our L-Tech fountain pen and stylus, I like to tell them that they’re holding three centuries of technology in their hand—the 19th century fountain pen nib, the 20th century machine-age brass barrel, and the 21st century silicone stylus tip. Then I like to watch the smile that comes over their faces, as they think about what an old—and new—object they’re holding.
One object, three centuries
This three-century object manifests for me just how lucky we are to be able to tap into such a broad spectrum of technology. I love the feel of the fountain pen as it glides on my paper with the lubrication of liquid ink. In a quiet room, you can hear it, as well as feel it. (Charles Frazier, in his book Cold Mountain, described that sound as the scritch of the pen.) The ink glistens for a few seconds before it permeates the paper with its deep, dark blue.
Then I’ll cap the pen, flip it upside down, and use the stylus to draw on my favorite writing program, 51 Paper. I have a notebook therein where I practice writing, in Spanish, the expressions I read in English. It’s a modern and quite pleasing chalk slate. Bliss!
Now that we can enjoy fountains pens, ballpoints, and digital styli, why would we want to give any of them up?
In the era of virtual, still physical
It’s not just a matter of sentimentality; it speaks to our productivity. For connectivity, breaking news, and immediate communication, you can’t beat digital. But for communication with yourself, nothing beats the quiet pleasures of pen on paper—especially a pen perfectly suited to your hand and writing style, and paper, like an untouched field of fresh snow.
The digital—the virtual—will take us ever farther and higher into the cloud. It’s exciting to speculate on how we will work and create in ways we can’t yet imagine. Yet we are physical beings still, living in a physical world.
Consider the solidity of a strong wooden desk under your arms. It holds your computer ever so steady. Or the touch of a leather case that warmly and securely embraces your smartphone. It is carrying on the long tradition of using leather to give our fragile human bodies purchase on life—shoes, saddles, reins, quivers to hold our arrows.
Now that the heritage technologies we used to construct our civilization—like printed books, notebooks, and ink pens—are technically obsolete, we are free to truly understand their benefits and choose to use them when we desire.
A $100 gift card for the best stories of what you still hold dear
For my new book, Holding Dear: The Value of the Real, I was able to ask some of our customers about the physical object that inspires their thinking and creating. We’ve reproduced some wonderful—and surprising—stories by David McCullough, David Allen, Patti Smith, Ann Patchett and others. I especially liked our technologist friends Paul Saffo and Kevin Kelly weighing in on the analog objects of their affection.
But a book, in its paper iteration, has a finite number of pages, and we need to continue the conversation.
So I’m asking you to share a story with me. Tell me, dear reader, about a favorite box, or a certain painting, or a prized volume of poetry inscribed by a loved one that just wouldn’t be the same as a digital book, no more than a photo of people hugging substitutes for a real hug. Or whatever your object may be.
What thing, when you touch it, touches you back?
Post your story as a Comment to this blog
We’ll notify the winners by email and announce them on our Facebook page. (Fyi—we may want to share your story in our social media or other Levenger communications channels.)
Gift card or not, each of you will be rewarded as you think back about what physical object you’re grateful for in our increasingly virtual world.
With thanks and gratitude to you, I am