Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Cor 9:6
I own seven fountain pens. Perhaps that sounds decadent, snooty, or yuppie to you. But they represent more than simply pride in ownership of nice objects; they represent a renewable way of life that is slipping away in America with nary a whisper farewell.
It started, I imagine, with mass-production and the advent of rapidly-produced but lower-quality items. No longer did people buy razors for life, re-sharpening a ten-year-old blade; how much simpler to simply purchase a new razor, or new blades, when the old became dull. Pens, too, experienced this change: how much more economical to turn out cheap Bic ballpoints at 4¢ each and have consumers use them until the pen ran out of ink or was lost. Because who cares if you lose a pen that cost less than a piece of paper? Even higher-quality pens cost $5 for three or four, and their loss may cause a pang — but not a long one, since you can simply purchase a new set of three to replace the lost one. Fountain pens do come that way too. I once found a throw-away fountain pen in a snow drift, still full of ink (its nib feels like writing with a bar of steel and the ink’s quality is laughable).
Yet fountain pens are, by and large, a throwback to a time when people bought an item and valued it. Bought an item with the expectation to own it for years, care for it, perhaps even replace broken parts to keep the whole thing alive. Then there’s the ink, beautiful smooth-flowing ink in a bottle that lasts beyond all expectations.
When I refill an empty pen, it’s a reminder of to reuse everything we can. What percentage of landfills do discarded end-chewed ballpoints occupy? What effect of their leftover ink as it seeps into the ground (not to say fountain pen ink is any less at fault; I don’t know the process for producing it, but I’m sure it’s as polluting as any today). Fountain pens and their counterpoint disposable ballpoints are a symbol of the consume-and-toss culture we live in today in which convienence takes precedence over careful management. The responsibility to live in an ecologically sustainable way demands that instead of consuming solely for convienence, we must be willing to take some small amount of inconvienence to reuse what we can.
In his novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley describes a society in which everybody is encouraged to constantly purchase new things. Clothes wear out in weeks, but it hardly matters: nobody owns clothes for weeks, let alone months or years. The social structure depends on constant consumption and constant sloughing of used things. We have so smoothly and quickly slipped into living this lifestyle (which Huxley predicted sixty years ago) that nobody’s blinked an eye. Fountain pens represent a balking of that way of life, a deliberate slowing-down and willingness to be responsible — to check the ink situation, to refill the pen, to occasionally tolerate ink spills or inconvienent running-out. Don’t you think it’s worth it to take a little extra time and leave something for our children?
…Looking at this entry, I realize it’s poorly-organized and excessively long. The short summary: We waste so much stuff, like all those zillions of ballpoint pens everybody loses or ditches every year; why don’t we all try to be a little more ecologically thoughtful by buying slightly more expensive items (like fountain pens) that will last a long time instead of piling up in landfills?