The Washington Post on Dec. 16 printed an essay by climate researcher Michael E. Mann, who has received countless threats since the 1990s when he started talking about climate change. With the rise of bigotry and ignorance that appears to characterize the upcoming Trump administration, he is expecting a surge in the threats he receives.
So as we enter a new year, we as writers might consider how
we can use our work to make a difference in the world for light, truth, and tolerance. I am reminded of a quote from a 19th century Suffragette who said, “Take up your pen and save the world.”
In a google search of this quote, I came up with a column on Goodreads.com that features a number of quotes about taking up the pen. Most of them are banal or cynical, but here are a few that echo the quote above.
“Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.”
― John Adams
“The ink of a pen is simply the blood of a heart”
― Michael Biondi
“The pen is mightier than the sword, if you know where to poke it.”
― Jeremy C. Shipp,
“Your pen is your sword. Wield it wisely.”
― C.A. Simonson
“An inspired stroke of a pen can save or damn the world”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity
In continuing along this vein, I found a Wikipedia article by Melvyn Bragg, who wrote Twelve Books That Changed the World published in 2006. Here’s his list:
• Principia Mathematica (1687) — Isaac Newton
• Married Love (1918) — Marie Stopes
• Magna Carta (1215)
• Book of Rules of Association Football (1863)
• On the Origin of Species (1859) — Charles Darwin
• On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789) — William Wilberforce in Parliament, immediately printed in several versions
• A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) — Mary Wollstonecraft
• Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855) by Michael Faraday
• Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769) — Richard Arkwright
• The King James Bible (1611) — William Tyndale and 54 scholars appointed by the king
• An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) — Adam Smith
• The First Folio (1623) — William Shakespeare
Of course many other writings have impacted the world. I’m reminded of John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, even Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
Probably you can name books that have changed your life. I know I can.