Pens, Punched Cards and Patience

It’s approaching Christmas and I am reminiscing on my earlier days. I know it sounds sentimental and a bit depressing to some but I was kinda excited to discover in the back of my drawer a bunch of tactile devises – fountain pens.

Say what? For those unfamiliar with these devices, they are fine writing objects which deliver ink on paper by a collection of delicate wells and cavities to a a “nib” the best of which are 14 carat gold to allow for flexibility and resist corrosion. The fountain pens I have are 30 years old and and after charging with fresh ink fires up flawlessly,

But why am I rambling on about this? You may know that have a series of blogs and podcasts* for the NABWMT about balancing or tactile (real) and online lives. This is relevant to our interactions with people especially when we promote our fight against racism and homophobia.

I just read the New York Times and an article struck me as germane to this blog. It seems that 75% of hospitals have electronic records. However, the health practitioners reported “digital fatigue” and have been covertly resorting to paper to as a back up for passwords and notes. These are folks that are supposed to be people sensitive and are detracted from their roles as such. Does this sound familiar? Are you bombarded with the need to remember the scores of passwords?

In my blog: “Blogs, Being There”** I stated that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face. To that I add at this Holiday time we should renew the vehicles of phoning and writing (with or without a fountain pen)!

The added bonus to this is that you may have an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in. You see, writing should slow down the movement of you thoughts to a physical record. Here is another old world analogy with computers. 20 years ago I started using a mainframe computer with “punched cards”. These cards enabled a computer to read each line of code, Today there are millions of lines of code embedded in a computer you can hold in your hand! I had to look at these cards to make sure I could find a mistake that could screw up my program. The point is thatI slowed down my thought processes to learn. I needed patience.

I am not a therapist nor a Luddite but proponent of balance. I try to balance my offline and online day. Often it is difficult. But then I recall that our hero Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington without a digital command center. Dr. Jon Bush,*** long time NA member wrote his academic papers on race relations. An Dr Jerry Mallon,**** another NA hero wrote is seminal monograph “Resisting Racism” probably with pen and paper (maybe a fountain pen?).