When the hand loses its soul

Dr.. Parwin Habib

February 13, 2024

At the recent book fair in Cairo, some writers presented me with their works embroidered with delicate words in their handwriting. In a moment of contemplation, I felt great nostalgia to see the handwriting of some of my creative friends, after my communication with them was limited to the cold letters of similar devices. Are we entering an era in which handwriting becomes extinct, and smartphone buttons replace our fingertips as they draw letters on paper? I confirm what I said in my previous article about the e-book, that I am not against technology, as it is the basis of human development, but what really hurts is that it has turned us into similarities without any particularities.

I still remember my great happiness when I read Nizar Qabbani’s collection, “The Jasmine Alphabet,” published in his handwriting, which combined the pleasure of poetry and the pleasure of the eye. How much I tried when I was young to perfect and improve my handwriting until it reached a stage that satisfied me, because I believe in the word of Ali bin Abi Talib, may God honor his face: “Handwriting: The prince has perfection, the rich has beauty, and the poor has money.”

The keyboard eliminated this beautiful distinction between us, and how honest and hurtful were the words of my friend, the screenwriter Reem Hanna, when she noticed that our lines through the devices had become completely similar to the resemblance of women who inject their faces with “Botox” and “fillers,” so they become without expressions, features, or Differences. Lines that do not detect from their shape sadness, joy, confusion, haste, or anger, nor the spirit of their writer, which was revealed by the trembling of the pen or its stability. We know the precise person from his straight lines, the eager one from his scattered letters, and the lover from every detail, starting with the paper and ink, and ending with the envelope. In which the message is deposited.

It is not just a matter of nostalgia. Several academic studies have confirmed that writing by hand facilitates learning, but I look at the issue from a sentimental perspective. How many professions related to handwriting are almost extinct, as the courts have dispensed with the calligraphy expert who exposes forgery and reveals manipulation. We remember how long we had passed without seeing that beautiful being whom they called the postman, with the good news he brought to a mother eagerly waiting for news of her only child, or a beloved soul hanging on the handwriting of a lover far away.

After this, did I feel pain when I was always repeating in front of those who know me the phrase “I wish I lived in another time,” and to imagine it as a woman from the 19th century who writes with a quill and inkwell, and the letters come to her sealed with red wax, and she reads her favorite book in a horse-drawn carriage, and puts her books in a large box near her bed, isn’t it? Is this better than becoming another “Dolly” in the era of cloning?!


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