Friday, December 10, 2010

the point of a pencil

Not everything that can be shaped into a point points. A sharp pencil is pointier than the pointiest finger, but pencils don’t point as well as fingers.

If a pencil points anywhere – and I’m not saying it does – it points in the direction that’s suggested by an imaginary arrow beginning at the edge of the eraser and extending along the yellow barrel, down the small slope of shaved wood, where it exits the pencil at its tip and continues along this trajectory: pencils make lousy pointers.

Yes, a pencil’s pointy, but its point doesn’t point anywhere. Look at it this way, when you show a person a pencil, the person doesn’t follow an imaginary dotted line projecting from the tip of the pencil like a laser from a pointer. On the other hand, when you show a person a finger, that is exactly what he will do, turning his head to see where the laser of the finger is pointing.

Although a finger can’t be sharpened to as fine a point as a pencil, a finger is a better pointer than a pencil, proving pointing doesn’t come from pointedness alone.