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Pen Philosophy

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52 replies to this topic

#41 Offret



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Posted 10 June 2014 - 03:29

Good points, though the word "obvious" is pretty tricky in a thread like this. Personally, I couldn't afford Hemingway's pen, but "his pen" that was really just his ink sac might bring it to a price point I could consider. Maybe. But it's value, the "soul" of it, might mean just as much to me as the whole kit and caboodle would to someone who could buy up his pens, desk set and desk with perfect authenticity.


Actually, more realistically, it might be Hemingway's eraserless pencil stub that I might could find and afford. Where's the soul then?

You're right. Obvious should not have been my first choice of term. Nonetheless, we all come to our own terms regarding what is authentic, true and/or original. 

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#42 proton007


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 05:26

It's not a question of the state of physical objects.


Every physical experience registers an imprint on our memory, in some cases this seed 'grows' into a tree of related memories. When we use that same object again, it's that piece of memory which gets referenced.


In other words, the 'Ship of Theseus' exists more inside our mind, internally than it does externally.


Another way of looking at it is in terms of a constant reference. Apart from our own existence as a constant observer, it's the existence of some other constants that gives our minds a sense of time. The tree in the garden that has stood it's ground as long as we remember, the houses on the street we lived in, small little objects that have shared the same space as us.


So, where is the soul of the pen? In our minds. The more we use the pen, the longer that strand of intertwined memories grows.


And, When is a pen no longer the same pen? When it ceases to exist inside our minds, either because we bury those memories away, or the experience just turns sour.


As an extension of this line of thinking, memorabilia which obtain their value by their state of ownership aren't worth it. The intangible experience component of that object perished along with the owner, what's left of it is purely physical.

On the contrary, personal memorabilia can be worth a lot more.

Edited by proton007, 10 June 2014 - 05:32.

In a world where there are no eyes the sun would not be light, and in a world where there were no soft skins rocks would not be hard, nor in a world where there were no muscles would they be heavy. Existence is relationship and you're smack in the middle of it.

- Alan Watts

#43 Rose Nibs

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Posted 10 June 2014 - 06:16

I think the word 'soul' has taken over this thread. A pen is an inanimate object, of course, and so is a violin bow. But tell a violinist that the stick with horsehair attached is just a tool and they will probably demur. I think the pen is an extension of the hand and it acquires value when it fits in your hand comfortably and does what your hand directs it to do. When you inherit a pen you have a link to the hand that held it before yours. I have my father's pen, a much abused Parker VP, and my mother's ancient Conway Stewart, and when I hold them I am in touch with the original owners. I have glued the cracked barrel of the VP and re-sacced the Conway Stewart but they feel like the same pens to me. And that's what counts.

#44 de_pen_dent


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 09:53

What I said was the original question has no reasonable, logical, consistent answer and so asking the question is pointless. Your second paragraph is a great example. You hold off on making changes to the pen yet the friend is constantly changing in just about every way and constantly modifying parts.  Your friend is not the same as (s)he was when (s)he gave you the pen. 


While I agree with you, FWIW - for me, a pen is just a pen and I have no emotional attachment to any of them - but (and I mean no offense) it seems to me that you are taking a needlessly adverserial stance here.    


While you are correct that everyone has a different answer, I think that is precisely the OP is trying to extract - what everyone's thoughts are.  Sometimes, it is ok to have a discussion just for the sake of sharing beliefs, without necessarily trying to establish absolutes.


As I said, I have zero emotional attachment to my pens - I buy them b/c they appeal to me and I couldnt care less about swapping parts, but I am kinda interested in reading about other people's views on this (even though i find the concept of forming an emotional bond with an inanimate object strange, unless there is a bit of personal history involved).

Edited by de_pen_dent, 10 June 2014 - 09:55.

True bliss: knowing that the guy next to you is suffering more than you are.

#45 Tootles


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 10:24

Entertaining thread. You know, you can have an attachment to desire, not just the object of your desire. Which is why many people remain unsatisfied by their acquisitions. Something to think about.


For me there are objects in my life that have particular significance. If they were lost - destroyed, worn away or whatever - there would be a sense of sadness but not regret. Nothing is permanent. However, while they are here we can enjoy them fully for what they are right now.


I'll stop right about there because anything more would start to look suspiciously like preaching. :rolleyes:


Palm to palm.

#46 MarneM


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 11:51

I like this thought exercise. I have books on my shelves that are in the range of 100-200 years old. I pick up a leather-bound copy of Byron from the 1800's, and run my hand lovingly over the cover. There is a little writing on the inside pages, and I wonder at the life of the person who wrote it. What experiences did they live through? What changes in the world? Did they have the same relationship with the words that I do?


The text of the book is the same as if I went and bought a publication printed last year. So what makes the experience richer? 


I have a couple of Waterman pens from the 1940's or immediately prior. Were they used to write letters during the war? What tears might have been spilled upon those pages? What love notes? Or...grocery lists? Did the owner live in a big city, hiding from the bombs as they fell? Did they flee to the country? What stories could they tell? One of my pens has the owner's initials. Would that I could find that person. 


There is something magical about this wonder, for me. It is not the same with new pens (which I also own, and love for their own merits). So if the nib broke, or the barrel shattered, it would not be the same. 

"Wer schweigt, stimmt zu."

#47 Gaslight


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 12:06

Interesting thread, my two cents (I hope my english is up to it..):


I own several objects which I really like: bicycles, old and new game consoles, several old magazines and the like. My pens are important to me, but I don't think any of my 'things' possesses a soul.


There's one pen though which has a bit more story to it: I have a M200, it's a gift from my mother and I have it since the early nineties. It suffered some abuse, I was a pupil back then and the pen got used (a lot). The clip broke off, scratches everywhere and the jewel broke.


I dropped it again this year and the jewel broke again, that was the moment I permanently shelved it.


But -for the sake of this thread-: lets say I replace the clip and use it again. For me it'll still be my mothers gift. I think if I change the nib, or something else, it'll still be the same pen. But what if I have to change several things at the same time? Lets say the whole barrel and nib... Somehow changing one part at a time (and with some time between changes) doesn't seem to change the nature of the pen as extremely as replacing several parts at once.


So,at least for me it seems possible that I change several parts and for me it'll be still the pen my mother gave me. But perhaps the actual pen isn't that important and what's important is what the pen represents for me. It's some kind of anchor for certain memories, the idea I have about the pen makes it special to me. And as long as the process of change through exchanging parts is slowly enough I don't lose the connection with it.

Edited by Gaslight, 10 June 2014 - 13:49.

What a strange world we live in, where people communicate by text more than ever before, yet the art of proper handwriting is seen as a thing from the past.


#48 Hardcase


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Posted 10 June 2014 - 13:43

I find this a very interesting topic because it's come up in other areas of collecting that I've been involved in: vintage cars and vintage firearms.


How much can you replace on something before it's not that something anymore?  It's in the eye of the beholder.  I own several turn of the (20th) century Winchester lever action rifles.  The "holy grail", if you will, would be an all original, in the box, never been fired, etc. firearm.  Since those are few and far between, a lightly used gun would be nearly as attractive to a collector, even if a part or two had been replaced with a period-correct one.  And for those of us who don't have the wallet for such a thing, there is a thriving market for brand new reproductions of those classic rifles.  While an Uberti 1886 rifle may not have the same cachet as the original Winchester, the experience of using one is just as valid - and there's no worry about damaging a collectable original.


As to the "soul" of a pen...I have been fortunate to inherit my great grandmother's fountain pen.  It's in the shop right now for a restoration, which doesn't involve any new parts.  But even if it did, it would still be my great grandmother's pen and I'd feel the same way about it.  Just as with my wife's grandfather's 1961 Dodge pickup that we own.  We've put quite a few replacement parts into that old truck (probably more than the doggone thing is worth) and there's no doubt in our minds that it's the "same" truck as when we towed it home ten years ago (well, not the "same", given that it actually runs and is drivable, but you get the picture).


To me, part of the beauty of an heirloom tool (which is kind of what we're talking about) is keeping it in condition to continue its use.  That means maintenance and, sometimes, repair.


#49 Tootles


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Posted 11 June 2014 - 00:41

In my humble opinion Gaslight has the right of it. The object is a symbol of something to which you attach emotion, memories or whatever. Much like when I see a Union Jack flag I feel a welling up of patriotism. If I see a second flag at a different location, even knowing that obviously it is not the same flag, my feeling is in no way diminshed. (Point exaggerated a bit because all I usually see is just a flag!).


Anyway, replacing all the parts does not intrinsically change the objects symbolism UNLESS there is something different about the object - compared to a new one - which has sentimental associations, such as patterns of wear and so on. Then, all bets are off!

#50 KAC



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Posted 11 June 2014 - 00:54

Let's face it: fountain pen ownership these days is a simple matter of narcissism. If a pen was a simple utilitarian object, a disposable and free ballpoint would do the job quite well and with no fuss. Those of us who buy fountain pens (I'll restrict myself to that class of pens for the purposes of argument) do so as an expression of individuality, a link to the "machine age" and, in some cases, as a status totem. Personally, I like the way fp's write and I especially enjoy vintage nibs (Parkers, mostly).


Where is the soul of the pen?

A fp is like a mechanical watch. It's obsolete and poorly suited to modern use. A vintage pen, like a vintage watch has "wabi" (especially if it's not cosmetically "adjusted" to eliminate evidence of use). A modern fp with fealty to the past (I'll site one obvious example, the MB 149 which is more-or-less identical to its antecedents) is usable, comfortable and nostalgically evocative. Maybe that's the "soul of the pen".


When is a pen no longer the same pen?

I'd reply to that by referring to the above paragraph: a vintage pen, once thoroughly (cosmetically) restored isn't the same pen. That's neither good nor bad and I attach no value judgement to that decision by the pen owner. I don't buy obviously cosmetically restored vintage pens. Of course, I have no way of knowing if polishing and so on was done in the past, so this is really a matter of caprice on my part. If I scratch a modern pen (of which I only have two), I'll buff out the mark. I have no hesitation in mechanically restoring the mechanism because otherwise...the pen won't perform its intended function!  Illogical? Perhaps.



#51 Dottie



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Posted 11 June 2014 - 01:18

I differ just a little. I began using a fountain pen while getting an advance degree. I did so much writing by hand that I'd developed "trigger finger." A fountain pen needed little pressure and it was the only writing utensil that was comfortable to use. 


Now of course, I have all kinds of inks and pens and nibs. It is the experience of writing and the beauty of the page that I am attached to rather than the pens. They remain utensils.

Edited by Dottie, 11 June 2014 - 01:19.

#52 Tootles


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Posted 11 June 2014 - 01:35


Let's face it: fountain pen ownership these days is a simple matter of narcissism. If a pen was a simple utilitarian object, a disposable and free ballpoint would do the job quite well and with no fuss. Those of us who buy fountain pens (I'll restrict myself to that class of pens for the purposes of argument) do so as an expression of individuality, a link to the "machine age" and, in some cases, as a status totem. Personally, I like the way fp's write and I especially enjoy vintage nibs (Parkers, mostly).


Don't agree I'm afraid.


As a writing tool a fountain pen is far more pleasurable to use than a ballpoint (putting aside its other quirks of course). And human beings are not robots. We respond well, in the main, to aesthetic appeal.




A fp is like a mechanical watch. It's obsolete and poorly suited to modern use.


Care to explain why a mechanical watch is obsolete, in terms of its intended function?

Edited by Cryptos, 11 June 2014 - 01:37.

#53 GabrielleDuVent


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Posted 11 June 2014 - 11:02

Let's face it: fountain pen ownership these days is a simple matter of narcissism. If a pen was a simple utilitarian object, a disposable and free ballpoint would do the job quite well and with no fuss. Those of us who buy fountain pens (I'll restrict myself to that class of pens for the purposes of argument) do so as an expression of individuality, a link to the "machine age" and, in some cases, as a status totem. Personally, I like the way fp's write and I especially enjoy vintage nibs (Parkers, mostly).



Agree to disagree. I can't even begin to count how many times I envisioned myself going on a murderous rampage after picking up a ballpoint, trying to write with it, only to discover that it apparently requires a sacrificial goat or some mystical pass or Herculean strength to get the ink flowing. This is why I don't own guns. "Female goes on a shooting spree after trying three pens. Chaos in downtown" isn't something I'd like to see on the front page, and when I'm in a hurry and need to write, wrestling with an object that apparently was designed to be a pen but is now just a plastic rod really aggravates me. 


Yes, you guessed it. I'm very short-tempered. Patience is a virtue but I never got that memo until it was too late.


I also beg to differ that musical instruments are soul-less. They all have personalities (to me). One of my violins is a docile creature, not fussy at all - in crude terms, "will put out for anything" - while my main violin is bordering emotional harassment. "You left me alone for far too long, I'm going to pout and snap the string in your face". "It's too cold, I think I'll croak for a while." "It's too humid, no resonating sound for you!". If he (yes, it's a he) was a 35 year old man, this is where we'd be breaking up. 


Of course, I also think my printer's a psychopathic bully out to get me. It always jams when I need to print something in a hurry.


But going back to the topic, personalities are, in fact, your projection viewed by others. You just are; people decide whether you are short-temper, or if you are kind, or logical, or any other term people slap onto you. In which case, the same thing can be applied to pens; the pen just is, and you decide whether it's cranky, or smooth, or anything else. 


So when do you get to know the pen and the pen's no longer just a pen? I think that's a little like asking "so when does the new girl in class turn from just someone else to someone you actually know?" and in which case, it takes time but also the density of experiences. If you wrote with one pen everyday, took it everywhere, it'd probably take less time to know it than a pen you've had for years but didn't quite ever use it.

Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 


-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923

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