Well over a millenium ago, Christian monks in Europe were making their own ink so they could painstakingly copy and illuminate holy works. They didn't invent ink -- although the history of ink is rather convoluted -- but they certainly perfected it at a time when we sorely needed this particular tool, which we take for granted in our ball-point, ink-jet, text-messaging modern world. In fact, maybe ink ranks among the most important inventions in man's history (certainly for us newspapermen and authors), but we only care about it when the damn printer goes faint ... and then we'll desperately pay $30 for less than a half-shot of it.
So in an interesting twist on history, anybody with a printer who wants cheaper ink can now turn to ... a monk.
Actually, many monks. They are LaserMonks. com, and they'll sell you a printer cartridge cheaper than OfficeMax or Office Depot -- and the brothers will put your money to work doing God's work while you splatter your words and graphics and photos all over a billion different kinds of paper (which they can probably sell you, too.)
The "LaserMonks" are brothers of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank in Sparta, Wisconsin. Founded in 2001 by some enterprising monks, LaserMonks "follows in the tradition of monastic business endeavors, uniquely blending philanthropy, spirituality, and enterprise to support a life of prayer and charitable service," according to its web site. Income from selling deeply discounted printer cartridges (the best deals are on re-conditioned cartridges) helps cover the monks austere living expenses, and the rest underwrites charitable works all over the world. It's always nice when history comes back around to leave its mark ... in this case, an indelible one.
I just ordered some cartridges from the monks. Their online "shopping cart" is as simple as Amazon's, and their price on five inkjet cartridges were about half what I'd pay in a retail store -- without half the satisfaction or fun.
So you get cheaper printer ink, the monks generate some cash flow -- and you have the benefit of knowing you've helped somebody someplace in this messy world. It's a entrepreneurial world, even at the Cistercian Abbey apparently, but you can bet Office Max isn't turning its profits into charity. Plus, you can tell your friends you buy your ink from monks.
Got ink? See a monk.