My wife wrote me a love letter. For Victorian Times, it was pretty steamy. Hell, for any time period it was pretty steamy. She slipped it into my sports coat this morning as I was preparing to ride to work. My horse was sick, so I had to walk. Sometimes I wonder if maybe a horseless carriage might end up being best after all. Technology is predictable. It's not as if the engine will just shut down out of nowhere. Or maybe I just need a mustang. (Or does that require a midlife crisis first?)
So, here's the thing: She wrote it out on pencil. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it bothered me. Pencil is temporary. Pencil is gray. Pencil is movement. Pencil is modern. The graphite letters leave a soot behind that matches the dull gray cloud in this urban landscape, leaving its ugly erasure marks on the ever-changing steel cage neighborhood that I've learned to call home.
Don't get me wrong, I love the letter. It's just that the medium didn't fit.
In fact, it's not the letter itself that bothers me. It's the pencil. It's in this middle zone of being more permanent than speech and more temporary than ink. We say "pencil me in," when we want commitment without commitment. Sometimes it seems as if relationships, community, our most sacred social institutions have adopted a "pencil me in" mentality.
We confuse novelty for innovation and it's all at the cost of long-term public memory. We can't remember anything. No shared stories when they are spliced up into bits and sent via telegraph. No common voice when it's compressed into a phonograph.
So, I walk, with letter in hand, to my factory-styled school, questioning if the pencils are even worth it, wondering if we are penciling in a shady world where nothing is temporary and nothing is permanent.