Pencils are infinitely better than any pen. Go through your pencil holder right now and remove all the pens which do not belong there any way because naming rights! That said, the beauty of the pencil lies in its base interaction with the user. When one gets hold of a pencil, its capacity to be used must be formed by you the user. It then becomes your own. Its relative sharpness or dullness reflects your own personality. Some uptight types insist on it being perpetually sharp and long. Others are more deliberate about their pencil point, some run it down to the ground before sharpening again. As one who draws with a pencil I prefer to slowly whittle down the sharp point from use until it reaches a perfect balance of dullness to sharpness ratio which makes for the absolute best medium in which sketching and shading can be accomplished.
The length of one's pencil is another customizable feature notably absent from any decent pen (jerry rigging aside). Most prefer a decent length, while of course the 3/4 to 1/2 length being ideal. I enjoy using the pencil until the very edge of the eraser metal. I can gauge easily my usage of this particular implement and the many adventures we have been through, notes in class, doodles on the margins, sketches of trees in the park, or simple notes about grocery shopping. The pencil not only engaged in these activities of my daily life, but it accompanies me along with my journeys where ever I happen to go.
The pencil sustains scratch marks from wear and tear, indentations made by finger nails during boring lectures, and teeth marks while cramming for finals. Sometimes I draw pictures with my thumbnail, patterns or even words. All of these marks remain, although inevitably it is erased and turned into shavings as its use weighs on the graphite clay mixture within it.
The eraser is a personality unique to each individual pencil, some work wonderfully leaving clear paper behind while others do nothing but smear. This is a clear advantage of the pencil however, erasing allows one to tinker with the drawing or the written word until it comes out as desired. The pencil is forgiving and will allow you to fully express yourself. The color of the marks it makes are far more beautiful than any left by ink. Its marks may be light, heavy and dark and everything inbetween, a flexibility the pen greatly lacks in its entrapped black (or blue) and white world.
Our love for the pencil has lead us to construct special homes for them, the pencil holder. Recently invaded by assortments of pens, markers and highlighters, the pencil shares this home reluctantly comfortable in the knowledge of its true purpose. While formally shaved with a simply knife, we have seen fit to construct special machines specifically for the purpose of sharpening them. We called these “pencil sharpeners”. The classic hand crank we all remember from elementary school. More recent bastard electric varieties have crept in, robbing our youth of the beautiful experience of examining the interior workings of the human powered machine. But luckily, the personal and transportable sharpener will likely always be the same razor blade based system.
The pencil is so ubiquitous that I no longer even purchase them any more. I find them on the ground on sidewalks, in buildings or left on tables. I pocket every one and bring them home to be used whenever the current friend meets its inevitable end. This always brings a sort of sentimentality to the pencil, some where on its journey it was abandoned specifically in order to meet me. Our fates were intertwined. It becomes a friend. Its hexagonal shape allows for more enjoyable fiddling than a boring circular pen could ever allow. The pen is sterile, indifferent, uniform and boring. The pencil is the durable friend, comfortable, fun, as changing as you are, and as reflective of your own person. The pencil is beautiful.