A Signature Book of Signatures

May 30, 2018 on 9:03 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Photographs, Stories | Comments Off on A Signature Book of Signatures

That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away. Such was the opinion of Hippocrates, Greek physician and huge figure in the history of medicine. He might’ve said, use it or lose it – so much more meme-friendly – but his considered opinion of over 2000 years ago holds true today. The great golfer, Sam Snead said practice puts brains in your muscles. He’d know. His record of over 80 championships didn’t happen by chance. We know idle muscles shift to flab, or, at least become weak. Unpracticed skills fall away.

Consider handwriting. Good, old-fashioned squiggly curlicued pen styling. Cursive lettering. Longhand penmanship. Call it what you want but I know that if I was to take pen to paper and mark out this sentence it would be mostly illegible. Some of you may not have been taught cursive so it would be tricky to read. And for everyone else? No one has been taught “scrawl” – which is what my unused longhand has become. Today my fingers tap buttons – or cover small holes – far more than they hold a pen.

On reflection its interesting (to me) that almost the only time I now use cursive writing is in recording assessment pages, you know, scoresheets, for solo piping and band contests. My handwriting has deteriorated to the point where I’ve found myself printing in parentheses transcriptions of especially illegible penned words. Dashing off a signature is likely the other most common use of my waining cursive ability.

The signature is an interesting thing. For millennia it has been a mark of validation, an acknowledgement of acceptance, approval or obligation. Ancient Egyptians used pictographs and over time, as technology developed, so did the signature. In 1677 the signature became a real instrument of power. English Parliament passed the Statute of Frauds Act decreeing that all law contracts must be signed. No two handwritten signatures are believed to be the same and the law was an attempt to crackdown on hoodwinking and deceit – surely a great name for any law firm.

You may know that a graphologist is the expert who connects our handwriting patterns to psychological traits. Its generally believed that our handwriting tells us who we are and the signature, well, that tells us who we want to be. In our handwriting the routine pushes and pulls of the ballpoint gives way to something usually quite different in our signature mark. Grand curves and sweeping arcs and maybe even a heart-shaped “dot” more often land on a page. This M followed by an insanely unintelligible journey to Y is who I want to be, I guess – Michael Grey, indeed.

Graphology is one of those pursuits that doesn’t have an awful lot of science behind it. The word sketchy comes to mind. I imagine it might be a good long time before any graphologist wins the Nobel. But like astrology – and who doesn’t read their horoscope – there’s a little fun to it. There are a few graphology basics: if you have a large signature you’re a narcissist. Small? Insecure (of course). Illegible? You’re very private. If yours is easy to read, well, you’re an open, friendly sort of person. The list of analytics goes on (and on).

Last summer I spent some time in the west end of Glasgow and so, naturally, found my way to the College of Piping for a few practice sessions (looking to use it and not lose it, you see). In making my way to one of the rehearsal rooms I came across an old book, it seemed to have been randomly placed on a side table in an alcove. It was the College of Piping visitors book. And not just any old visitors book. This dated back to some of the earliest days of the College and was just plain fascinating. The first entry was 1952. Touched by the hands of twentieth century greats you could feel the book’s energy. I can imagine in the hands of a Medium or psychic the book would strike in transcendental conniptions.

Read the rest of the story here.

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