Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Ever heard of the saying ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’? These words of wisdom was probably coined during the time when all fights and wars was won through physical strength and some people only starts to believe fights and wars could or should be won through wisdom. For all I know, those beautiful words were first introduced as a phrase after some fight or war was won through wisdom instead of sheer brute strength and sharp swords.

It may be of benefit to me and others if I could research the origin of the phrase. Who first introduce it, when, where, how and why. Yet again, for the purpose of this piece, I believe it’s sufficed to assume that the ‘why’ has something to do with writing and writers. Who else would use a pen but a writer or at least someone who writes? What else is a pen good for except writing? A warrior would not want to go to a war with only a pen or even many pieces of pens as his combat weapon, especially when the enemy draw on long sharp swords as weapon.

Of course one could use a pen as weapon and win a fight. Sudden attack as in an attempted robbery may be foiled if the victim is fast in drawing his pen, open it’s cover and thrust the sharp tip on the body of the attacker, where it could cause a severe pain. The pain would very unlikely kill the attacker but the pain would definitely distract the attacker. The distraction may allow enough time and space for the victim to stage further counter attack or run to safety.

For some reason, some hooligan may get very angry with you and challenge you to a fight. You refuse but the hooligan insists to settle the score there and then. As all you have on you, which can resemble a weapon, is a piece of pen you may just wield the pen as weapon to defend yourself and counter attack. The probability of you winning the fight would be very slim unless you are a martial art practitioner who practices regularly thus achieve the level of expert. Even if so, you would probably think more than twice if the hooligan wield a long, shiny and sharp samurai sword.

Pen as a physical weapon would very unlikely help anyone to win a fight, battle and war, as well illustrated in the two scenarios. Yet the saying goes, the ‘Pen is Mightier than the Sword. I believe then, the phrase must be referring to writings. Words written in such a way that it affect the readers. Words written in such a way that brings about different level of understanding. Words written that trigger a change in perspective.

It cannot be just referring to any written words. For words to be mightier than swords, they must be thought provoking. Words that form into sentences and paragraphs that influences the readers to act differently.

For a pen to produce such writing it must be moved by a hand which is controlled by a sharp mind. Not just any hand. Not just any mind. Quality of an article depends on the mind that controls the hand holding the pen and not the quality of the pen itself. The price of the pen would have no bearing in the result except maybe on the appearance of the writing.

Today, pen is hardly used for writing. Most writing results from tapping of many small buttons on an instrument widely known as keyboard which is connected to other instruments known as processor and screen. The physical appearance of the instruments may be very different compared to a pen but production of writing still depends very much on the fingers tapping the keyboards. Fingers controlled by the mind, just as the fingers that hold a pen to write.

Quality, brand and price of a pen bear no impact to the quality of writing. Quality, brand, price, speed and size of a computer also bring about no impact to the quality of a commentary. Even if a writer use a computer that is so powerful, equipped with a very big keyboard, the result of his writing still depends on the mind that control the fingers tapping on the keyboard.

The adage ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Swords’ holds true only when the mind that controls the hand is sharper than the sword. A piece of writing will have great positive impact when the mind of the writer instructs the fingers to tap the right key at the right sequence.

Human mind is not physical but works from a set of physical being that is located inside the human skull. The physical being is normally referred to as brain. The physical brain consists of many parts, each with specific functions to run the human body system. Details on brain and brain function would require much more than 39,339 pages to be added to this posting and that would render this posting unreadable to most and lose the intended impact. To avoid that, explanation on the brain function would focus on it’s effect on writings as viewed from a popular perspectives.

This generalisation made by the popular view may be too broad to the extent of being seen as pseudoscientific. Nevertheless, the broad explanation is still applicable to the majority of the cases thus prove it more right than wrong. Most importantly, it helps us better understand the what, why and how’s of a creative endeavour which includes but not limited to writings.

This generalisation is with regard to grouping the many physical parts of brain to only two significant groups, the left and right side. Both these sides consist of various brain elements. The left brain predominantly function as the logical processor while the right brain function as the creative side. The actual functionality of these two sides of brains may still differ from one person to another. Most glaring is the finding that in left-handed person, the sides and functions are generally the other way round.

Although not precise in all cases, it is safe to assume the left-logical and right-creative functionality as basis for further discussion in this observation. At this juncture, it is only proper to note again that the mind is not the physical form of the brain but the result of what is happening in the two sets of brain. Effectively, this means the capability and state of mind very well depend on how the two set of brains works.

Human mind would not function properly in the absence of any one side of the brain. In most cases, the two sides of brains just work while in some other cases the two sides work together as a team. Although in both cases the brain works and thus form a mind, the difference between ‘working’ and ‘working together as a team’ can be very obvious.

People with both side of brain working are average people.  They form the majority of people living in this world. Average people are everywhere. They live their lives as a normal people. They like and dislike what other people normally like and dislike. They do things that normal people do and refrain from doing what other normal people refrain from doing. They think just as another average people think. They form opinion the way most other people shape their opinion. Their mind function well enough for them to live as normal people. Just well enough.

When both side of the brain work together as a team, the result is exceptional. Not just exceptional in any way but exceptional in a positive sense. People blessed with this set of brains are extraordinary. Because of their state of mind, it is normal for them to be known as brilliant or even genius. These are not average or normal people. Their numbers are much smaller than the average people.

The brilliant and genius think in a different way compared to the average. Even among themselves, they think differently. They do things the average people refrain from doing. They achieve more than the average because they not only work hard but smart. While the average are contented just being a follower, the brilliant would always strive to lead others. While the average is comfortable with what they achieve, the brilliant make every effort to always improve. The brilliant and genius always produce something that is remarkably superior.

At the other end of the bell curve, lives another group of people. Just as anybody else, this group of people also bring with them the two sets of brain. Just as everybody else, the right-creative and left-logical sets of brain are right there, snuggled within their respective skulls. The physical being of these people are generally the same as the average and the brilliant.

Despite the similarity, one particular aspect of the mind sets the vast difference even when compared to the average. The disparity is only in the character of the two brain sets. This character sets the daft from the average and brilliant.

The daft has both brain sides intact but one side of the brain is lost and the other is out looking for it. The left brain is lost and the right is out looking for it. The left-logical side is lost and working hard to look for the way home. The right-creative side gets lonely and is trying hard to get the logical side home. The lost side may even be the right-creative and the one looking for it is the left-logical side. With this happening, both the brain sides are always busy. One is busy looking for the way home while the other busy looking for the lost side.

Naturally, with both the sides busy, they are no time left for them to work, let alone work together as a team. The logical side has no time to be logical while the creative side has no time to be creative. One is lost and the other is busy trying to locate it.

Now let’s go back to the proverb, ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’. This adage has been proven true many times over. History noted that many battle have been won just by the strokes of pens, without wielding of weapons, any weapon. Disputes resolved by exchange of ideas through writings that quashed the misunderstanding causing it. Fierce disagreement mellowed and subsequently metamorphoses to harmony upon involvement of a literature that changes the perspective of the bickering parties.

True as it may be, let’s not overlook the element which controls the pen. Could all product of writing be classified as mightier than sword? Would the fingers that hold and move the pen or tap the keyboard impact the result? How would the writer’s state of mind influence the movement of the fingers?

Would it be right to conclude that ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’ only and only if the fingers holding and moving the pen are controlled by a mind that is sharper than sword? Would it be right to correlate writings to the writer’s brilliant, average or daft state of mind? 


"The pen is mightier than the sword" is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.


  1. What about lies (as practiced by Dajjal a.m.), if repeated enough number of times ... can it moves nations to conquer and to subjugate too?

  2. Study in the field of psychology and mind function have proven that even the propagator of a lie could begin to believe in his own story after repeating it a certain number of times. When he continuously repeat his untruth, his mind will soon accept the untruth as an absolute truth.

    Nevertheless, let's not dismiss the outcome of yet another study. Study on human behaviour also proven that people only listen to and thus hear only what they want to hear. They pay attention only to something that is of interest to them.

    This being the truth, someone receiving a piece of information will first evaluate the information. Upon this evaluation, the mind would decide whether to open or shut the ears the next time similar information is presented. The ears will only hear over and over again, pieces of information that the mind can accept as 'believable' and possible.

    Acceptance as truth would largely depend on which state of mind he is in, brilliant, average or daft. The daft would easily believe just about anything, the average would look around to see how others perceive the information and the brilliant would question just about anything and draw his own conclusion.

    Chances are, a piece written by the brilliant would influence many. A story disseminated by the average would leave some mark on their own type but definitely impress the daft while a daft composition, at best would only influence their own type.

    So, can lies move nations to conquer? My answer is, yes!

  3. Then, can it be said that there is no such thing absolute truth; that truth in fact is only relative?

  4. No, I don't agree with that. Truth is not relative. Perception is relative.

    Truth is truth and will remain as truth. Even when concealed, it will remain as truth. Even if only one person out of millions know the truth, the millions could not change the truth status.

    Wrongs can be perceived as truth as perception is relative. One person can start and spread a lie and because he is so believable or the lie is repeated so many times, many or even most people will believe and perceive it as the truth. The lie he started remain a lie. Still an absolute lie. Untrue.

    The only truth about the lie is that so many believe it as the truth.

  5. Terima kasih sudi melawati balog kawan, terima kasih atas nasihat serta pandangan.

    Cuba tuan amati bloger-bloger PAS, PKR, DAP, terutma PAS dan PKR, berapa banyak fitnah ditulis terhadap pemimpin UMNO ? Bukankah lebih besar dosa memfitnah pemimpin yang memberi keharmonian negara untuk rakyat. Mengapa fitnah bahawa Malaysia huru hara, Malaysia berkecamuk sering disebarkan untuk menghantui rakyat......
    PAS yang sering menegakkan Islam dalam kempen, tapi penuh dengan fitnah, disambut dengan takbir oleh penyokong mereka......... Adil kah ? Apakah tiada yang baik langsung pemimpin UMNO/BN dalam menerajui negara ?

    sama-sama kita buka minda secara terbuka......

  6. Dalam ehwal FITNAH, mana yang lebih besar dosanya mungkin membawa perbezaan namun yang saya kira lebih penting ialah bahawa yang FITNAH itu tetap membawa kepada dosa besar. Dosa yang sebenarnya kita tidak termampu untuk menanggung samaada kita tahu atau tidak.

    Apabila PAS melakukan sesuatu yang tidak adil dan kita nampak dan tahu akan ketidakadilan itu, maka tugas kita adalah menegur mereka untuk membetulkan mereka. Sekiranya tindakan mereka kita balas dengan tindakan yang juga tidak adil, maka kita jadi seperti mereka, tidak adil.

    Berbalas tindakan dengan perlakuan tidak adil tidak akan menegakkan keadilan dan secara mudah, apabila kita tidak bertindak adil maka tindakan kita adalah zalim.

    Saya setuju dengan cadangan untuk membuka minda asalkan keterbukaan minda kita tidak melepasi sempadan yang digariskan dengan jelas oleh ajaran ISLAM.

    Juga saya berharap, tidak payahlah ber'tuan' dengan saya. Saya tidak mampu menggalas tanggungjawab yang datang dengan panggilan atau gelaran itu.