I went looking for a pencil sharpener

There’s a trend, now that the world is getting more complex, to want the world to be simpler. I want to live in a cabin without electricity. I want to read by candlelight. I want to write a novel. It’s a spoiled thing, really, but maybe it’s a nice thing too. My heart isn’t connected to the internet.

I spent fifteen minutes today looking for a pencil sharpener. It was probably five minutes, but felt like fifteen. There were five minutes before I got out of my seat spent deciding whether it was efficient go look for the pencil sharpener. There were five minutes after admonishing myself for going looking for a pencil sharpener I hadn’t found.

The thing is I really wanted to go looking for it. I wanted to look for something as simple as a pencil sharpener, something once so integral but which I hadn’t used for years. I use mechanical pencils. I write with my finger on the screen of an iPad.

I held up an exacto knife instead of a pencil sharpener at one point, wondering if I was that Romantic. I wasn’t. I just used another pencil.


(from officemuseum.com)

I received the wonderful gift of an iPad mini for my birthday. It is such an incredible device, yet I’ve found myself doing such silly things on it. Mostly I’ve played a Boggle game called Scramble with Friends. It’s just Boggle.

Do I deserve all this technology, all this painstaking advancement in human capacity, when I find myself wishing for something simpler? I keep reading books about people who have decided to live like hermits (Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and now We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich), and wishing I had that kind of courage. Really, I’m wishing that I had that kind of skill. I couldn’t build a house in the woods. It would become immediately evident, if in the woods, that I didn’t know how to do anything.

I’m reading about art education, and how educators can either decide to turn a blind eye to popular culture and technology or incorporate it in their teaching. The author seemed to think it was evident that a blind eye was not the way to go. But how much technology can we incorporate into our education, into our lives and our bodies until we become consumed by it? Maybe a blind eye would help us out sometimes. Maybe instead of doing an app where you build a cabin, you might gain something out of building your own. Something that is not efficiency. Something that is closer to the heart than efficiency.

I know I don’t want to give it all up, but sometimes I just need to make myself spend the day looking for pencil sharpeners, in order to remind myself that my body is manual and that I need to take the time to remember how things used to be, even though I grew up in a time when you threw out pencils and I’m only dreaming of a time when knives were used to sharpen the lead.

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