|Listen to the man: “The hands think,” said Reynolds. “The
nervous system is continuous, so how can we say that the hands don’t
think? Often the conscious mind merely interferes with the hand.
Students learning to write reach a certain proficiency, and their
eyes, like a police matron, take all the freedom away from the rhythmical
movement. I tell them not to watch grimly because the eye is a cold
judge that frustrates spontaneity. Let your hand move!”
Then calligraphy instruction shifts to
life instruction: “Wise men since the beginning of culture
have been telling us that the one immutable law of the universe
is change. Why do people hate, fear, and deny change? It has brought
them everything they value most. We can’t seem to realize
that there need be no more war, no more racism, no more poverty.
We act as if we were stone blind, and hang onto the early twentieth
century as if it were the rock of ages and the guarantee of perpetual
happiness. Change being what it is, we’re going to lose everything
anyhow; so what do we have to lose? Why don’t we, then, drop
the hostilities and just live?
“Only the open hand of the human
being can grow the living tree that should be our present and our
future. The whole universe is at our doorstep; all we have to do
is open the door.”
think that art has two parts, one intellectual and the other servile
. . . no. It’s a false dichotomy, absolutely false. Universities
from the Renaissance on have put criticism above work, above action.
They claim that there is the thinking or philosophical man and the
man of action—that the two cannot be in one person. This is
one of the worst heresies in Western civilization. It accounts for
much of the mess that we’re in, in colleges and universities,
where if a work is rational and analytical, it’s respectable.”
heard a sample, you can easily imagine that Reynolds, and by association
his hugely popular little letter-drawing class, might generate
ill will from some. A vocal rabble-rouser who backed down for no
one, Reynolds had friends at Reed, but just as many, or more, enemies.
Every year he had to bitterly defend his calligraphy and graphic
Some, it is said, were merely jealous of
his overflowing classes, his intensely loyal following, his awards,
his TV shows (in the ’60s, Reynolds made a series of 20 programs
on italic handwriting for public television), and his media recognition
as an outstanding teacher. Many of his detractors believed that
calligraphy classes just weren’t academic enough for Reed.
Year after year, this was the battle being fought behind and between
the strokes of the edged pen.