Hello. I believe it's New Year's Day, time again for the annual dose of fresh hopes and grim resolves. My resolves this year are very simple. Some of them are negative. For instance, I will not buy a fountain pen in 1985. I will not even go near the pen shop for fear of weakening my resolve. I only buy fountain pens in even-numbered years, and this past year that is now a memory I made it just under the wire, finally purchasing a basic black number at the end of last week. Simple. Tasteful. Idiotically expensive. Also obsolete, of course. As for writing, our computers will do that for us.
Yet a fountain pen is somehow essential to my well-being. Why this should be so will remain a mystery, especially since I rarely use a pen in my work, which consists mainly in punching keys to make words and the words show up in little green letters -- tiny little particles of light -- on a tiny black screen that makes your eyes hurt and emits a constant and, when you think about it, extremely annoying noise rather like a spaceship approaching, not nearly so satisfying as the sporadic sound of a pen scratching paper. Moreover, I suspect that the noise may be addictive, inasmuch as just last September I purchased one of these machines for my own use in my free time at home, where the cartons are now serving, temporarily but quite functionally, as a table -- very high-tech, I think, and very modular because they can be easily moved to form various convenient configurations. The table draws many admiring glances, I can tell. As well it might. It is the second most expensive table I ever bought. These cartons are not your standard corrugated box by a long shot.
Resolved: Hook up the computer in 1985, preferably in the first quarter; sell the table idea to Bloomingdale's. It's an idea sure to catch on.
Like humming. Just three months ago (about the time I was buying my computer, actually) 350 people gathered at San Francisco Bay's Pier 2 to hum in E-flat major with another group in Seattle and yet another group in New York. Afterwards, I read in yesterday's Style Plus, they felt wonderful. Even the neighborhood dogs stopped barking. But I could have told them: our computers will do our humming for us. Even in E-flat major, if they're properly programmed.
Firmly resolved for 1985: Plug in the computer, turn it on, adjust the pitch, and the dog in the alley will never bark again.
You think this is a joke? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Chicago, studied this matter of humming and to test his observations he forced his subjects to stop it cold turkey. "After about 24 hours . . . all of them reported very strange difficulties in everyday life. They walked into doors. They spilled coffee. They broke their eyeglasses. Many couldn't concentrate." (Source: "The Humble Hum and Its Good Vibrations," by Don Oldenburg, Style Plus, page D5, The Washington Post, Dec. 31, 1984.) Their environment, you see, had lost the structure and order that the hum provides. This phenomenon is more fully documented in Prof. Csikszentmihalyi's book, "Beyond Boredom and Anxiety," which I have not yet read and may not in 1985, my agenda being fairly well filled already. But I'll keep it on line for '86.
It's all quite reasonable, actually, and certainly something the computer people had thoroughly in mind when they incorporated the hum in their heretofore imperfectly pitched machine. Steven Halpern's research (ibid.) has shown that "all the atoms and molecules in our bodies vibrate. Scientists have been telling us, as did ancient yogis, that all of the cells, muscles, glands and organs in our body sing a sound on a physical level that we can't hear but perhaps intuitively recognize. Huming may be a primordial way to tune in to that -- assisting the body in balancing its own energy systems and bringing itself into a greater degree of harmony."
Resolved for 1985, preferably by the second quarter: Wire the fountain pen for perfect pitch. (Surely the cap will emit a soothing E-flat.) Place the pen on the computer cartons (patent pending) and plug it in to any convenient outlet. Words will flow like ink. (Connect the computer to the VCR, if you wish.) IBM will pay dearly for this idea. Everything is now quite clear, I trust, and humming along nicely. William McPherson; The writer is a member of the editorial page staff.