In honor of National Handwriting Day (in the U.S.), I give you Meg’s treatise on “Cursive” from Gen:
Tish and Meg dropped in that Fiveday evening after rotations. Meg brought several pencils and a stack of her own paper, too, to give Tish and me our first lesson in cursive writing. I would have tubed over to their place again, gladly, but they both sensed I was uncomfortable around Raf. While I appreciated their efforts I felt guilty, too. I shouldn’t have been hiding from him. And traveling together like this, the two of them would be an easier target for anyone who might want to follow.
Tish would die first before letting anything happen to her grand-M. Or me, for that matter. But, there was absolutely zero reason to put either of them in danger like this. Meg was only a few years younger than her half-sister, Simma, after all, and while RejuV and bio supplements could work wonders, there was no sense needlessly taxing her aging frame.
Meg worked us for hours on the basics of the old alphabet system. We ruled out baselines and practiced writing pairs of magiscules and miniscules, and struggled through assorted ascenders, descenders and x-height strokes. The old-style mechanical pencils seemed fragile and the graphite tips snapped off frequently. We had to stop often and resharpen them with a little metal blade-thing. It was all very tiresome.
“A stylus would hold up better,” Tish complained.
She couldn’t quite get the point of it all. So Meg gave us a lecture, just like a Tutor from Lessons.
“Cursive writing activates neural systems related to the perception of complex shapes,” she explained. “It’s called pattern recognition and is what’s left of a survival mechanism we developed long ago to distinguish friend from foe. As a species, we don’t look all that different, after all. Everyone has two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. And usually in the same places, too. But even from afar, we can spot a friend in a crowd coming off a crosstown tube, say, or pouring out of a busy skyhook exit. Even if you haven’t seen them in some time, or they have new clothes, or dark glasses and a hat, you can still usually pick them out. Humans became very good at recognizing these subtle clues and we continued to evolve that part our brain for other complex visual tasks, including the ability to recognize word-patterns in cursive writing, which served societies for thousands of years.”
“But really, Grand-M, cursive is too confusing,” Tish complained. “Sometimes the letters are connected to each other, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes a space means a new word but other times it doesn’t. It hurts my wrist, too, and my writing gets so sloppy I can’t even recognize what I’ve written half the time. Besides which, Old English isn’t my strong suit.”
“Its rarity is its strength,” Meg soothed. “Don’t worry. With practice it will come to you more easily. And in the end, you’ll have your own personal, recognizable hand.”
“But if someone can recognize my writing,” Tish argued, “then why com like this at all? Same with typing. It’s molecules, after all. Someone could intercept it. Read it. Maybe even know who wrote it. Electrons would be better. At least electrons I can hide.”
Meg seemed to mull this over.
“Perhaps a secret identity would be the safest thing,” I joked.
“I can make you anonymous, if you’d like,” Tish said, bragging in her matter-of-fact way.
“But is anyone ever really anonymous, anymore?” I asked, dubious.
“I can make you anonymous,” she repeated, with emphasis.