In the middle of the crowded final exam, the football player was suddenly in trouble. Waving his arm to attract my attention, he held up his pen, shook it, and pantomimed despair. I held up my own pen, pointed at it to signify comprehension and impending action, and then slow-pitched it over other students’ heads to him.
Every muscle in the football player’s body suddenly became alert. His head swiveled as he followed the trajectory of the approaching pen, and his eyes glittered. With a gesture as efficient as a ballerina’s, he reached up, wrapped his huge hand around the pen, and pulled it down through the air toward himself.
For that fraction of a second, an intelligence had been at work. It had taken control of the pen so completely that it had no need for any words that a pen might write. It was an intelligence purely of flesh making contact with plastic, body to body. It was love.
Twice a night, late at night in my time zone, the comment spams come through to my blog. They’re all the same: a few anonymous sentences of extravagant but vague praise, not just mistyped but typed as if the typist doesn’t even know the alphabet. “You hpeled a brother,” say the sentences. “Thnaks!”
I’m told that they look that way because the typists actually don’t know the alphabet. In rooms full of keyboards in India or the Philippines, people type and type and type, for pennies an hour, transmitting alphabets into the aether on behalf of other people who think that such an act will cause search engines to notice their existence. In the aether, electronicized words say “Love.”
If you have the pen, you don’t need the words. If you have a computer programmed to transmit the word “Thnaks,” you don’t need love. Look: