“The hand is the tool of tools.”
Aristotle

This post is different. Last autumn I decided I want to retrain my hand. To write.

I had three reasons. First, my wife has always had beautiful handwriting, and it is simply so aesthetically pleasing. Second, I have read that ‘they’ are not teaching children cursive anymore. Somehow, I have to admit, it seemed that this is probably another one of those cases where the old-timers knew what they were doing, and now ‘they’ are going to lose it. So I’m being something of a contrarian.

Finally, years ago my wife spent some time in Japan, and she has told me a little about their traditional arts. For the Japanese, to form the habit of careful, ordered motions is a way of training the soul. Indeed, they say that you practice these arts–and one of them is calligraphy–not so much to perfect them, but rather because they perfect you. Such a practice also has roots in the West, even if these roots have been largely lost to sight.

So my wife got me a block of lined paper and some good pens for Christmas. I have been trying to spend ten minutes a day practicing, beginning with very simple hooks and other shapes, working up to letters. Now one month later I am already finding a certain peace and pleasure writing a few words in cursive, taking the time to form each letter in flowing, even while very imperfect strokes.

Just what this does for me, I cannot adequately articulate. I do know that the power of reason, like the hand, must learn to use tools, and to use them well for good ends, through much care and practice.

I am actually ‘writing’ this post–indeed my first ever–completely by hand in cursive. It certainly has taken longer than typing. And I must still type it. But right now I am very grateful to have a hand, and to be able actually to write out the thoughts in my mind.

Post-scipt: I have to admit that in typing this I revised the wording of a good number of the sentences I had penned. I wonder what it would take to re-establish the habit of composing by hand with some confidence and precision, without often going back, deleting and re-doing.

Image: the art of Japanese calligraphy is called shodo.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:

Living with Yourself

“And a virtuous man wishes to live with himself; for he does so with pleasure, since the memories of his past acts are delightful and his hopes for the future are good, and therefore pleasant. His mind is well stored too with subjects of contemplation.” Aristotle,...

read more

Might vs. Valor

Phalinus, messenger from Persian King Artaxerxes, demands that the Persians (who had fought with Cyrus, now dead, against Artaxerxes) put down their arms. Xenophon responds: “Phalinus, at this moment, as you see for yourself, we have no other possessions save arms and...

read more

Bethany Weekends: Spring, Summer Schedule

Socrates insisted on the centrality of examining our lives. The purpose of such examination is clear: we will come closer to being the persons we can be if we accept the challenge of our human identity, of being rational. This is our privilege: to use our reason to...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest