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I selected ballpoints at random. Each had a different design on it.

Different words, different colors, different shapes. Some had unique soft grips. Others had interesting ways to retract the tip.

None of that mattered though.

Individual design didn't affect what I was putting down on paper. They were merely the vessel through which my thoughts flowed on to the page, carried by the ink within each pen. The ink came in different colors too. Black, blue, red, and some other less common colors. That too did not affect what was coming out, except when I truly wanted the color to represent something specific.

Some ballpoints were smoother than others, and the ink would flow out almost effortlessly, but that didn't affect what was coming on to the page either. Usually I would take a brief look at what was written on the surface of the pen though. Often it was some name, sometimes a message. A bit of randomness that entered my mind through my eyes, but did not affect what would then flow from my mind to my hands.

Colors, shapes, comfort - none of that mattered. The shape of a cup does not change the water within, nor the ingredients of any soup poured forth.

It was just a matter of control. Who ultimately controlled the movement of the ballpoint. Perhaps depending on the design on its shell, the vessel may remind me of things from my past. But I did not allow that to affect what came out the pen's tip. That might be too broad a statement. At least I had not yet found a pen designed in such a way that would make me think things I couldn't put out of my head.

I would be the one in control. Not its appearance, grip, nor writing action.

Over time, I've been through many pens, often having to switch in the middle of a document. I never let that affect my output though. When I saw the lines fading in the output of the older pen, I would know change was coming soon, but it was not going to change my message. It would only force a change in my vessel.

I didn't have any favorite vessels. I know some who did have favorites, and they would keep the shells while replacing their ink sources, as each previous source ran dry. For them, the interface between their hand and the page changed little, except perhaps for minor differences in ink. I tended to replace the entire shell and start fresh. It was neither the vessel nor any ink cartridges that truly mattered after all. It was the hand that held it. And the mind that held the hand.

Maybe one day even my hand will be replaced. Just one shell being replaced by another.

There would still be a brief sinking feeling when I saw the ink begin to fade though. I could foresee the end coming. But it wasn't an emotional experience for me, nor did I allow it to change my message. Granted my thoughts would flash briefly to practical matters about finding a replacement. But I kept those thoughts well compartmentalized from the rest of the thoughts coming down to the page. Speed bumps on a road were not going to affect where the road was going.

While there's randomness everywhere, and my choice of pen was one input of randomness, that minor bit of randomness was not going to affect the journey of ink being drawn out before me. It would be silly to even spend much time thinking about how choice of communication instrument was going to affect the communication.

On occasions when I did have preferences, I might choose them over others for a while. But I knew like all things, their vessels and inkwells were only temporary. There would come a time when I would have to let them go. They were tools for marking a page. That's all they could be. I could not become too attached. Even if I could replace their ink indefinitely, they would still be lost at some point in the great wide world. Growing too much attachment to a mere tool of communication was the folly of sentimental fools, dooming themselves to grief.

Yes, this was what I believed.

I hadn't always believed it. There was a time when I would feel real pain at the loss of a favorite ballpoint. But I'd learned my lesson. Keeping ballpoints was neither the goal nor process of this exercise. What truly mattered was what ultimately made it on paper. The discarded shells, sacrificed for the page, may have been wonderful and precious in their day, but tools cannot be mistaken for final product, nor tools be mistaken for the artist.

Tools come and go, while the artist chooses which tool to use next - perhaps with careful consideration and deliberation, perhaps randomly. I preferred my tools to be random. I wasn't going to allow them to dictate their own output anyway. Sure a red pen always outputs red lines, but the meanings behind those lines would be chosen by me, not the pen.

That part should be intuitively obvious. No, I'm not in denial.

To suggest that a red pen can choose its output beyond mere color, is just plain ridiculous. It's not like it's alive, or has a brain, a mind, or a soul. It just does what its artist tells it to do. It is controlled by a force outside itself. Me. It does not control me in any way, not even by the designs and words on its shell.

To think an artist would be controlled by his tools is to reverse the laws of causality. While tools do place some limits on their artists, I could always switch to a different tool. Ultimately the final message would always be the same, no matter which tool I happen to have given my power.

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