Questioningly

I’ve been struggling with something about fountain pens lately, which I will call the “mehs.”

Time really flies in the summer, but on top of all the usual fun, I’ve had a succession of things that have combined to bring me up short. On the pen front, my Monviso arrived, which was very nice. On the ink front, I realized I was sick of blue inks, which for me is beyond strange. Then, on the life front, we had some hard things. The hardest was when our beloved 12-year-old Labrador Retriever suddenly became seriously ill with pancreatitis, which meant round the clock nursing by us and a lot of veterinary intervention, since she could not eat and drink, or even stand up, on her own.

I saw a thread on a forum where some people were expressing the thought that “you are what you own.” So sad. Meanwhile I kept seeing nice pens, new and used, popping up for around $400 to $500. Oh and the Montblanc Shakespeare pen came out. I love Shakespeare. That pen is more than $900. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with Shakespeare, of course. It has to do with parting people from more than $900.

Speaking of Shakespeare, he’s always there with an apt phrase. Hamlet opens with a scene where a watchman at the end of his shift says, “For this relief much thanks: ’tis bitter cold / And I am sick at heart.” Here, the weather is hot, and I’m only nonplussed. But as always, Shakespeare’s words resound more convincingly.

I do enjoy pens and inks, and I have since I was a kid. When I like the pens I use, my job is a little more fun and my day a little brighter. But, as a hobby, there are negatives. The fountain pen hobby does revolve around the acquisition, ownership (and sometimes selling) of, stuff. And that can be warping, and that can be hollow.

Not that I think that stuff is bad or buying stuff is bad.  Actually, I think that life is short and we should delight in every part of it that we can. I don’t feel bad about getting to own some nice pens — I feel lucky.

It’s just that there should be a balance in everything. I’m also the person who reads Thoreau’s Walden every year. My mantra (not from Thoreau) is: “Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.”

And yet I devote free time, and some discretionary income, to fountain pens and ink, which is essentially about having and getting. So, sometimes when I’m reminded of that, it brings me up short.

Right now, I’m a little sick of it. I have never thought “you are what you own,” and never will. But does it matter if I spend time in environments that foster that?  Do I contribute to that? Seeing pens on the internet every few weeks that cost $400, or $500 or $900, is that a positive? Or is it out of whack? When none of this is important. Do I remember that often enough? What do I do about it?

So I’m wrestling a little. On the bright side, at least our dog is doing well. Her life has actually been saved, which is a staggering thing to contemplate, and a good way to spend your time. Important things, like that, make me think, “just forget pens.”  It was nice to watch Serena Williams win Wimbledon this weekend. The BBC made a great video of Serena reciting (part of) a Maya Angelou poem. I would rather listen to that.

Because it doesn’t matter who comes to mind: Maya Angelou, the Ramones, Stephen Sondheim, Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot. They all say the same thing. Be and become.

10 thoughts on “Questioningly

  1. On reading my last comment I think I should have worded it a bit more gently. Think, type, post. It’s not always (or even often in my case) a good sequence. Sorry if it came across as being a touch harsh.

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  2. It seems there are a few of us thinking about similar lines, Laura 🙂 And I’m glad you posted about it. It gives food for thought. And I agree with David completely, I definitely like to see what people do with their pens 🙂 I have the inkling that a lot of them just have them, and don’t use them. That would be very sad. Pens should be used. A lot. Every day. Though with the few collectors items I had in hands by now (owned by someone else, it was one of those in the mid-4-digit area), I couldn’t write with it for any extended period of time. Some of those are really only made to be admired, not to be written with – and that, in my book,is a very sad thing.
    So yeah, I own a few of the lower 3-digit pens, and they write like a charm. I get a lot of pleasure out of gold nibs, during writing 🙂 So David, I agree, what you do with them should be the main thing.

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  3. There are many people who love to write using a fountain pen whose total annual discretionary funding is exceeded – significantly – by the cost of an Aurora Monviso. Frequenting any of the hobby pen sites basically means being reminded incessantly of this fact. It becomes wearying after a time. People for whom the spending of such amounts is trivial don’t seem to comprehend the simple truth that they create an incredible degree of peer pressure in the enthusiast community, and appear not care either.

    Personally I am far more interested in what people do with their pens. Sadly, in an awful lot of cases it seems that bragging about the acquisition is the main occupation.

    Perhaps what I see in pen communities, especially those that are permeated by collectors, is a microcosm of the self-entitled acquisition-oriented larger world? All I know is that I will never in my life see a luxury pen. Partly because they do not exist here, and partly because I will never be able to afford one.

    Having said all that, the most important part of this article, indeed the ONLY part of any importance, is that your doggie is getting better. And for that alone it was worth the read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, especially about our dog. 🙂 Your comment is so thought-provoking I’m going to break out a response in a separate post, I think.

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  4. So glad your dog is better, Laura!
    And really, the “you are what you own” thought is just… stupid. I know it is nice to own a pretty / nice / expensive pen, and I’m certainly not immune to that… I write a whole blog about that 🙂 … but it’s about the feeling, the using of the pens and inks, and the creating with them, not about the having. In my opinion. And I love some of my “cheaper” pens as much as some of the most expensive.
    So yes, I agree completely with your mantra there. Being and becoming sounds like a great goal. And I would even add a little word there. Happy. Being happy, perhaps even helping making others happy, that is a great thing.
    Thank you for this post. Sometimes we need food for thought just like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So true. I love this weather, too, but it makes a person indolent. I’m glad you’re back! I was thinking of you, and our conversation about our dogs, when we were sleeping on the floor with her. 🙂 We’re lucky she pulled through.

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  6. I’m glad your dog is doing better! It’s easy to get bored with this in the summer when we’d rather be out and on vacation, I think. God knows, I’m trying to get back to writing after getting home last night from Virginia Beach!

    Liked by 1 person

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