Cursive as spiritual practice

Spencerian handwriting of the Victorian era
Spencerian script of the Victorian era

I think I mentioned previously that I’m going through a dry spell with regard to magic, basically a lack of sufficient energy. The energy I have at the moment has to be directed to maintaining my meatsuit and basic mental processes (sometimes just the very basic ones, alas). It’s frustrating, but we all cycle through stages like this.

Anyway, I’m a fan of old-timey things and skills, hence the archaeology degree. Well, not too long ago I heard that children aren’t being taught to read or write cursive anymore, since all they do is type or occasionally print. It creates difficulty when the kids at some point encounter documents handwritten by oldsters like me, but I guess that is becoming a more and more rare occurrence. So I thought, it’s understandable that cursive would fall by the wayside but it’s kind of a shame that we have lost the skill (and appreciation) of good penmanship.

Mind you I’ve never had good penmanship. I mean I’m perfectly content with my hybrid print-cursive, I can read it and I can write fast, and I don’t think it’s too ugly to look at. But it isn’t penmanship. I mean, think about that word: Penmanship implies that one could be a pen(wo)man, like someone who lives by the pen, an artisan.

One thing I have always admired in Japanese culture and which I wish we had more of in the US is the belief that any activity, no matter how humble and mundane, can be elevated to an artform through dedication, patience, sensitivity, and attentiveness. Even something as simple as making tea, or writing. You don’t have to be able to afford fancy tools or equipment, you don’t have to be young and full of vigor, you don’t have to be a man, or a woman–you just give it time, attention, and commitment. And the result is always beautiful. But even more important are the changes in one’s own heart, mind, and spirit that result from cultivating dedication, patience, sensitivity, and attentiveness.

Turning an everyday activity into an art also means spending time absorbed in something. You are simultaneously alone with your naked self (I don’t mean naked physically–unless you’re into that, in which case, you do you, honey), with nothing to distract you from your demons; and at the same time, your focus on the task at hand lets you get away from the hamster-in-a-wheel thoughts that go round and round in your head all day. It’s meditative.

So a couple weeks ago I got the sudden urge to re-learn how to write proper cursive. Just to make sure that, within me, it doesn’t become a lost art. It was a pretty weird impulse, in retrospect. There are so many other nearly-lost arts that I might have taken up instead, which I would have imagined would be more inspiring. But cursive penmanship is probably a good choice because it doesn’t require any money, facilities, or special equipment, and can be done pretty much anywhere one finds oneself.

Just presence, pen, and paper.

Then a couple of days ago, it came to me from the aether that this is to be my magical practice for the moment. While I don’t have the energy for big workings (or even minor ones), I can devote a little time every day to the cultivation of my soul through dedication, patience, sensitivity, and attentiveness. I’m not sure who or what put this thought in my head. It has the feeling of having come from “beyond”–much like this blog, in fact. And far be it from me to ignore the call.

UPDATE 26 Feb 2016: Today I found this article, explaining why writing by hand can help you learn and be more creative.

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