My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read
I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults
who can read and write.
Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that's all I do.
You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is
interesting. And, next, I am a mystery—more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of
lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere
incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of
the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too
long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, "We are perishing for
want of wonder, not for want of wonders."
I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt
to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that's too much to ask of anyone—if you
can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the
freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can
teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher
because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.
not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.
sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and
one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.
Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye—there's some
wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.