Consumerism, together with the technology it drives, generates disposable reality. That was my conclusion in a post a few months back that synthesized some insights drawn from William Cavanaugh and Albert Borgmann. In that same post I suggested that the book was an instance of resistance to disposable reality as it is very often purchased and kept, sometimes for a lifetime. This is one important way in which e-books differ from traditional print books.
Since then I’ve had the lingering idea of documenting similar instances of resistance to disposable reality, and this past Sunday morning one such instance presented itself on CBS’s morning show. A short four and a half minute segment profiled Richard Binder, a former computer programmer who devoted himself to the care and repair of pens. Not the disposable kind, of course, and that is the point. These are mostly fountain pens and have in some instances been handed down from one generation to the next. It may come as a surprise to learn that Binder has a four month back-log of work.
Naturally, it is about more than a pen, it is about what we might call the culture of the pen that includes the care of the pen, the memories it carries, and the practice of writing it supports. To borrow Borgmann’s terminology, these are the focal practices that gather around the commanding presence of the pen as a focal thing (read the original post for a translation). Taken together they suggest a posture toward lived experience that is radically at odds with the culture of disposable reality. And resistance to disposable reality may yet help us calibrate the pace of our lives to a more humane rhythm.
Enjoy the clip below and feel free to send my way any instances of resistance to disposable reality that cross your path.
[Update: Clip has since been taken down.]