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Nobody knows how to make a pencil

There isn’t a single person on earth who possesses the skills to make a mass-produced pencil. From caring for and harvesting the trees; transporting them to a saw mill, cutting, shaping, mining graphite, the lacquer, the labelling, the ferule and eraser, the fuel (and coffee) required at each stage of the process, the building of the factories…

Leonard Read’s essay I, Pencil, is a fascinating, humbling read, and a reminder of our individual place as part of a global society rather than somehow exempt from or above it.

No individual person has organised this whole process; it has grown because society is able to act in harmony – and is better for it.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget our place in the world. To wonder why we bother with whatever job we do. Life can feel repetitive, a neverending circle of bills, chores, tasks and requests (demands) for our time.

But each of us contributes. Each of us has a story to tell, a skill to add. A smile to give.

The pencil – and everything else – exists because problems were solved when people worked together (even if the ultimate motive for many was profit). Creativty was uninhibited. The cumulative human knowledge spread across both centuries and continents is an astonishing thing, and the more we can harness it and celebrate it the better.

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Best wishes,