My Family Tree spil told to Leonard E. Read
I am a lead pencil–the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and women and adults who can read and write.*
Writing is both my vocation and my avocation, that’s all I do.
You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to start with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery–more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use mij, spil if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates mij to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error ter which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, “Wij are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
I, Pencil, ordinary however I emerge to be, merit your wonder and awe, a voorwaarde I shall attempt to prove. Ter fact, if you can understand me–no, that’s too much to ask of anyone–if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to instruct. And I can train this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because–well, because I am seemingly so ordinary.
Ordinary? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make mij. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my zuigeling produced ter the U.S.A. each year.
Pick mij up and look mij overheen. What do you see? Not much meets the eye–there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.
Just spil you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it unlikely for mij to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.
My family tree commences with what ter fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows te Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and cord and the uncountable other gear used ter harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless abilities that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of stengel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors, the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to strong and strong cord, the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a palm te every cup of coffee the loggers drink!
The logs are shipped to a mill ter San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make vapid cars and spoorlijn and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? Thesis legions are among my antecedents.
Consider the millwork ter San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into puny, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch te thickness. Thesis are kiln dried and then tinted for the same reason women waterput rouge on their faces. People choose that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many abilities went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the warmth, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers ter the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the dudes who poured the concrete for the stuwdam of a Pacific Gas & Electrical Company hydroplant which supplies the mill’s power!
Don’t overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a forearm ter transporting sixty carloads of slats across the nation.
Once ter the pencil factory–$Four,000,000 te machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine–each slat is given eight grooves by a sophisticated machine, after which another machine lays leads ter every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop–a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this “wood-clinched” sandwich.
My “lead” itself–it contains no lead at all–is ingewikkeld. The graphite is mined te Ceylon. Consider thesis miners and those who make their many devices and the makers of the paper sacks ter which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who waterput them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted ter my birth–and the harbor pilots.
The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi ter which ammonium hydroxide is used te the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such spil sulfonated tallow–animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the combination ultimately emerges spil endless extrusions–as from a sausage grinder-cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot combination which includes candelilla paraffin wax from Mexico, paraffin paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.
My cedar receives six covers of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the abilities of more persons than one can enumerate!
Observe the labeling. That’s a speelfilm formed by applying fever to doorslag black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, beg, is doorslag black?
My bit of metal–the ferrule–is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the abilities to make shiny sheet brass from thesis products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The finish story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.
Then there’s my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to ter the trade spil “the cork,” the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with mij. An ingredient called “factice” is what does the erasing. It is a rubber-like product made by reacting rape-seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for trussing purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy, and the pigment which gives “the butt-plug” its color is cadmium sulfide.
No One Knows
Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make mij?
Actually, millions of human beings have had a mitt ter my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far ter relating the picker of a coffee berry te far off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation, that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my eis. There isn’t a single person te all thesis millions, including the voorzitter of the pencil company, who contributes more than a lil’, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference inbetween the miner of graphite te Ceylon and the logger te Oregon is te the type of know-how. Neither the miner strafgevangenis the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker ter the oil field–paraffin being a by-product of petroleum.
Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker te the oil field strafgevangenis the chemist strafgevangenis the digger of graphite or clay strafgevangenis any who guy’s or makes the ships or trains or trucks strafgevangenis the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal strafgevangenis the voorzitter of the company performs his singular task because he wants mij. Each one wants mij less, perhaps, than does a child ter the very first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never eyed a pencil strafgevangenis would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than mij. Perhaps it is something like this: Each of thesis millions sees that he can thus exchange his lil’ know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among thesis items.
No Master Mind
There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing thesis uncountable deeds which bring mij into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, wij find the Invisible Arm at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.
It has bot said that “only Heer can make a tree.” Why do wij agree with this? Isn’t it because wij realize that wij ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can wij even describe a tree? Wij cannot, except te superficial terms. Wij can say, for example, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself spil a tree. But what mind is there among dudes that could even record, let alone meteen, the onveranderlijk switches ter molecules that transpire te the life span of a tree? Such a feat is utterly unthinkable!
I, Pencil, am a ingewikkeld combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to thesis miracles which mededeling themselves ter Nature an even more extreme miracle has bot added: the configuration of creative human energies–millions of lil’ know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously ter response to human necessity and desire and te the absence of any human master-minding! Since only Heer can make a tree, I insist that only Heerser could make mij. Man can no more onmiddellijk thesis millions of know-hows to bring mij into being than he can waterput molecules together to create a tree.
The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that thesis know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns te response to human necessity and demand–that is, ter the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding–then one will wield an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith te free people. Freedom is unlikely without this faith.
Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for example, spil the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by studs acting loosely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. Thesis assumptions are juist. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, ter the absence of faith ter free people–in the unawareness that millions of lil’ know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to please this necessity–the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “master-minding.”
If I, Pencil, were the only voorwerp that could opoffering testimony on what guys and women can accomplish when free to attempt, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore, it’s all about us and on every arm. Mail delivery is exceedingly ordinary when compared, for example, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to ems of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, te this area where fellows have bot left free to attempt, they supply the human voice around the world ter less than one 2nd, they supply an event visually and ter movement to any person’s huis when it is happening, they supply 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore te less than four hours, they produce gas from Texas to one’s range or furnace ter Fresh York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy, they supply each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard–halfway around the world–for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letterteken across the street!
The lesson I have to instruct is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act te harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus eliminate all obstacles the best it can. Permit thesis creative know-hows loosely to flow. Have faith that free boys and women will react to the Invisible Mitt. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly ordinary tho’ I am, opoffering the miracle of my creation spil testimony that this is a practical faith, spil practical spil the zon, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.
Leonard E. Read (1898-1983) founded Toverfee te 1946 and served spil its voorzitter until his death.
* My official name is “Mongol 482.” My many ingredients are assembled, fabricated, and finished by Eberhard Faber Pencil Company.