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The Sword's Splendor [Sho-do]

We need greater handwriting awareness

A quick look beyond our own inkwells to Japan and China is bound to thrill the hearts of all writers yet also make them turn green with envy. It is impossible for Europe to catch up with a civilization that has fostered the culture of the written word for over 6,000 years. But the West can still learn from this tradition. It teaches us just how important handwriting is since it can train our consciousness, but only if we stop focusing on what constitutes good and poor penmanship.

Europe’s failure to develop writing as a true art is due mainly to the Aristotelian concept of beauty which has been deeply embedded in its culture from the start. This concept holds individual handwriting styles in lesser regard, claiming that they are too lively and too asymmetrical.

In Japan things were much different. Writing quickly developed into a major art form. It was also recognized from the onset that handwriting makes "being" visible. ("Being" is akin to the European notion of the "subconscious" and we in the West would say that the subconscious is "revealed" through handwriting). In Japan this knowledge encouraged the continued fostering of handwriting as a means of giving expression to "being" (the concept of personality does not exist there). And soon, handwriting became known as an informative source of an individual’s being; it also gave insight into the cultural and societal status of the writer. In Japan down to the present day, children are encouraged to find their own handwriting style from the very first day of school. This is far from the case in Germany.

Within European graphology you’ll find this "expression of personality" solely entrusted to handwriting analysts. Whereas in Japan handwriting is considered a major art form. This is because according to handwriting aesthetics in Japan the act of writing by hand is a "sensual experience" and not a cause for endless vexation and frustration ("My handwriting looks like chicken scratch!").

When you pick up a pen and write, impulses originating from your brain travel to the limb and guide the natural movement of your hand. This means that everyone is capable of writing by hand. If only it weren’t for the differences in culture―in Europe, the pointed pen and rigorous penmanship rules; and in Japan, the brush and individual expression.

Is it possible to forge a East-West synthesis?

Yes! By realizing that in the West as in the East, unique handwriting styles are possible, but only under two conditions: a free flowing hand and a writer who has a passion for life.

There is absolutely no reason why developing a personal handwriting style―something so extremely important in China and Japan―should be a problem for Europeans. After all, "the subconscious" is equivalent to "being" and can be expressed equally well through letters of our alphabet.

In order to attain a standard in Europe that is comparable to that of Japan, handwriting must begin to be viewed in a completely different light. It must gain a better reputation, but first it must be liberated from all rigorous penmanship rules. dff



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