Sunday, 27 April 2014


I misplaced my pen today on the bus.  You may remember pens: those pre-online writing instruments that people who haven’t joined the smartphone generation still use on occasion.  I use them to make notes on books I’m reading (and you may remember books too).

Anyway, I misplaced my pen and had a moment’s angst, but then I remembered the back-up pen I carry with me just for these emergencies.  It’s a different type of pen; I don’t even know the brand: you push its top down to get it to write, and write it did, and very nicely.

So nicely that when I found the misplaced pen, I almost regretted returning the substitute to its emergency compartment in my sports bag (I was writing while on my way home from playing hockey; this way I can be both intellectual and athletic all on the same day).

Anyway, I almost regretted returning to my regular pen; wasn’t the substitute actually better?  Are all substitutes better?  Substitute teachers, back-up quarterbacks?  Well, maybe not.  But sometimes a change adds a little zest.  Who was it who said that it’s easier to be a lover than a husband because the lover only has to dazzle briefly and occasionally while the husband you’re stuck with all the time?

Okay, I looked it up; it was Balzac (that’s the wonder of Google), and he said it much more elegantly, but my point is that there may be something in novelty.  If the lover becomes the husband, though, where’s the novelty in that?  The same for the substitute teacher.

Maybe this is why it’s good to go on vacation, but also good to come back.  Which makes me think of Jung and Joseph Campbell, the hero with a thousand faces, the hero’s journey: good to get away and go slay dragons, but you shouldn’t get stuck doing that.

Well, this seems a long way from a misplaced pen, but for some reason the poor little pen has inspired me to muse about larger meanings.  Maybe it’s the grass is always greener effect.  When I was a child and visited my aunt’s house and had a grand time playing games with my cousin, I sometimes thought, Wouldn’t it be nice to live here full-time?  But maybe it wouldn’t have been at all, maybe it was only the change of pace that appealed to me, though who’s to say?

And of course I was only seeing the relatives on their best behaviour.  Out in public almost everyone seems nice and appealing, but who knows what goes on at home when the visitors are gone?

Ah, well … I have put away the emergency pen, and now must return to my regular routine.

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