Confabulation of Quotes – “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“The pen is mightier than the sword”- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839

This quote is so familiar these days and has been almost instantly since the 1840’s, that even that pretentious friend at your dinner party won’t dare try to throw it in your face. You know, the one that nobody can figure out who invited.

You can search the internet and have your pick of articles that theorize the origin of the sentiment. It’s widely agreed that it was not an original idea belonging to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, but, apparently, he indeed executed it better than anyone else. I’m not here to regurgitate that.

What does it mean? Again, you could make quick work of this question with a simple Google search. What you might find is someone that wrote an article filled with information from internet searches of their own. Undoubtedly, it would be full of instances of who said something similar before, what it means, and why it is or is not different or the same. To be honest, I know the saying, all adults do, but I had no clue who Edward Bulwer-Lytton was before my search, and, unlike some folk, I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

The appeal to this particular quote is rather uncomplicated. First, it’s short and to the point, which allows it some mysterious bonus points that I just made up. Second, the quote expresses so much with the use of so few words. Imagine the bonus points now. Finally, it’s easy to remember, perhaps the best part. I just quit keeping score.

I think it speaks directly to our desire to cheer for the underdog. The pen is clearly David while the sword must be Goliath. However, the conundrum has to be that after history has taught generations these same lessons, at what point does David become the sword. Oddly, as I write that, the words somehow do not make much sense, but I completely understand the meaning of them. Perhaps that is the point.

The Crusades are an excellent example, in my opinion. Now, I’m hardly an expert on the matter, and I always give the lessons to be learned from history much more weight than the facts, which are debated infinitely in some cases. In this case, the pen, written word or at least the interpretation of it, were widely used, on all sides, to convince people to fight for holy land. The actual reasons behind that are not a matter for debate as far as this post is concerned. I’m merely going to bend this example to my will to further my point. What did you expect?

The pen creates the word that inspires thousands, millions maybe, to take up their sword in defense of one cause or another. Strangely, the attackers and defenders were always fighting to “defend” something. So, it’s defenders versus defenders now. In other words, I’m right, my mind won’t change, and you think you’re right, you won’t change either. See what I did there? The only option is a battle to the death, Kirk vs. Spock style I hope. At this point, you should be shouting “Aaron Burr” with a mouthful of peanut butter.

There are other mighty pens; the Fisher Space Pen comes to mind. People widely believed, even I thought it at one point, that NASA spent millions developing a pen that could write in outer space while the Russians were happy to use pencils. It’s untrue. Long story short, NASA did not spend any taxpayer money to develop it, and the space pen saved them money in the end. Even the Russians used it. If you think it’s still dumb, realize that when an astronaut sharpens a pencil, the shavings can wreak havoc in zero gravity, letting slip the dogs of war. Okay, maybe that last part was too dramatic, on purpose.

In my mind, a pen is the father of the pencil, but, in essence, they are the same thing. On the one hand, we have a pencil who’s shavings could cause a space shuttle to explode. That’s rather mighty. On the contrary, we have a pen that can write in space, already potent, and cost the equivalent of seven or eight million dollars, in 2016 dollars, to develop. That will buy a lot of assault rifles, so I think it’s fair to say that pen is also plenty mighty.

The pen, as in penitentiary, is also incredibly mighty. If you factor in mandatory minimums, I think it’s an easy decision to make. In fact, the good ole USA has about five percent of the world’s population and twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. I’m not shedding new light on this by any means. Sadly, this fact is as well known as the quote that we are talking about here, maybe more so. I don’t think we should ruin the lives of young people for making one mistake just because that error involved drugs. There are even people in jail only because they cannot afford bail and ultimately plead guilty to crimes that they often have not committed. These issues deserve more time than I can give in a paragraph, so let’s move on. Suffice to say; this is yet another mighty pen, justice need not apply.

In summary, the pen is mightier than the sword. In many situations, the pen is the sword. Perhaps the quote should be, “The pen is a tiny sword,” or “The pen is the mightiest sword.” Whatever the case may be, it all comes down to an individual’s point of view, like so many things in life. Okay, I concede that the penitentiary was a bit of a stretch. Was it, though? It strikes at the heart of the meaning of the quote; an idea put into practice is far stronger than the tool of a trade. Even when that trade is a warrior, and that tool is an instrument of death.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

Detective Darby #10 – The Work

I’ve always felt strange in architecturally elaborate banks. It’s much like strolling into one’s tomb to get a feel for eternity. Perhaps, I simply did not like it, because I’ve never had enough money to join their little club.

Waxing aside, I turned my attention to my associate, Conan Gray. Apparently, I’ve taken to referring to my seldom seen cohorts in a manner suggesting that we associate far more often than we do. Beyond that fact, I was delighted to have his assistance in the matter since I’ve had about as much use for banking as it has had for me, as I previously mentioned.

Conan was quite the opposite of Walt. He was a man of impeccable attention to detail and the last person to cast a vote for physical confrontation. My associate was a short, slightly chubby man who was as grumpy in appearance as he was in practice. Conan was always well dressed, wearing a suit, vest, and tie everywhere he went. Also, he always carried an umbrella with him, which functioned as a cane more often than its intended use. His face was a bit round, just enough to call it so, and a different shade of red continuously flushed his cheeks. He had little hair atop his head, a fact typically hidden beneath a flat cap. His clothes were always gray, as was his hair, and I’m not sure I appreciated that correlation until now.

Suddenly, my daydreaming was interrupted by the bank manager approaching me, which startled me more than I cared to admit.

“Here’s the information that you requested,” the manager said, feigning a willingness to help. I’m unsure why the guy gave it to me instead of Conan, but, like I said, Conan is known to be contrary. Maybe it’s only my imagination, but I swear he judged me for having been startled. I could tell from his expression. As I sized the bank manager up, Conan hastily made his way through the revolving door and out of the bank. Luckily, there were no small children in his way. He did, however, nearly plow through a young lady, though she failed to notice the near miss.

By the time I got outside, Conan was standing next to a taxi waiting for me, undoubtedly. “Shall we take a cab?” he asked disdainfully, though I’m not sure he knows any other way.

“Let’s do that,” I replied, as I leaned down into the backseat.

“What’s that, pal?” the driver asked. I assume the cabbie failed to notice that I was talking to Conan.

“Take us to Lucky’s,” I said. He had nodded before he began to drive away. As soon as we got underway, I felt the need to chat with Conan. He has always been a great help dissecting a scene, but I never could get him to tell me anything about himself. That was the one thing that he had in common with Walt. “I appreciate you coming with me to the bar. Sarge was not keen on me going there alone, and I get the feeling that you don’t approve of the idea either,” I admitted, receiving only a stern look for my efforts.

“Your right, I do not approve, but your drinking problem is precisely that, your problem,” he replied, as sternly as the look he had given me. “Moving on, how about I take a look at the information that bank man gave you?”

“You got it,” I replied, as I passed him the papers from the bank. He looked them over rather critically. Honestly, he seemed to be putting on a show, but I wouldn’t dare question his methods so long as the results are sound, as they often are.

“Well, this does not tell us much. It only states that the account belongs to a corporation and that Emily Black is an authorized user of the account,” he mentioned. “There is not a list of other signatories, but there is the name of the company, Paradox Trust,” he added.

“So, we just guess that Emily Black is one of the trustees, right?” I asked, though rhetorically.

“Not exactly, Mr. Darby, we make an assumption based on the facts that we have. How could it be otherwise?” he asked. I wish he could talk to me once without me feeling as if he’s trying to make me look stupid. I know that I’m paranoid, but I can’t be wrong every time.

“Here we are,” the cab driver announced. I paid the fare but not without a dirty look from Conan. It seems that I’m an idiot and a cheapskate. I gave the driver a bit more in the hopes that it would live up to Conan’s high yet unpredictable standards.

I got out of the taxi and tried to help a struggling Conan get out as well. Unfortunately, he slapped my hand away, forcefully enough for a flash of rage to populate my mind for a moment.

“The gods undoubtedly weep for the future of mankind,” he pretentiously remarked. Now that I think about it, his tone was rather typical, for him.

“I’m sure your elders said the same for your generation,” I rebutted.

“Indeed they did and for good reason. If this is any indication of your tipping habits, it’s astonishing that not all of the taxi men in this city have socked you in the face,” he added. I have to admit; Conan is highly skilled at having the last word. Practice makes perfect, they say.

Conan stood by the door to Lucky’s for a time, posing with an entitled, arrogant scene upon his mug. Eventually, I discovered that he was waiting for me to open the door. As I did, he promptly disappeared into the bar as if the threshold were the entrance to another realm.

I lingered for a moment, because, frankly, Conan was boiling my blood with expert efficiency. After a few breaths that I didn’t have to share with my beloved associate, I conjured enough will to enter the establishment. It was eerily quiet, which struck me as odd, to say the least. As soon as I set foot inside the bar, my eyes locked with the elusive Emily Black.

A cacophony of bells and whistles filled my head in unison, emitting a singular, disruptive tone, and the next few steps that I took echoed just as Emily’s had before, unsurprisingly. I could feel Emily’s look of petrified terror on my face. A few more footsteps transformed my countenance into a gaze of terror. I was emitting as much disgust and hate as I could muster. My teeth clenched, as if a dog with a bone, and I was practically snarling.

Suddenly, two men in suits rushed Emily towards a backdoor, so I endeavored to give chase. Unfortunately, as the echoes picked up tempo, they were quickly shattered by a fist, and a decidedly uncomfortable thud replaced my echoes while the full weight of my body crashed to the floor. I rolled over onto an uncountable pile of discarded peanut shells. I told myself that all the crunching noises were from the shells, but my aches told a different version of that story.

“Be careful, Mr. Darby. I fear these two men may work for the taxi service,” Conan remarked, which was about as much help as one might expect. Damn him for being funny at a time such as this.

The man who presumably hit me stood over me, ill intentions laced his eyes, while his backup appeared to be retrieving a barstool. It looks as if I may become the next forgotten shell to populate this floor.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

-Albert Einstein