In defense of letters

When I was in middle school my two best friends both had divorced parents, and they both spent their summers out of state.  I suppose it didn’t end up making a huge difference on a practical level for me since my siblings and I spent our summers absorbed in family togetherness which, unlike many children I’m told, we relished.

But still, I wanted to stay in touch with my friends.  Email wasn’t a thing yet, and I have always hated talking on the phone.  So my two friends and I sent each other letters.  We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we would send a single letter in a loop: one person sending a note, the second one adding to it, the third contributing even more and forwarding the whole thing back to the first person.

The problem with e-mail and Twitter and these rapid fire communications is that they encourage us to share the feelings of the moment.  If you send a letter, you have to write something that will still be relevant in 2, 3, 12, 17 days (depending on where you send it) when it finally arrives and is read.

To write a letter is to play the long game.  To ignore the fact that you were watching your feet one day and walked into a wall at the office and instead contemplate the path of your career and the meaning of your work.  To forgo the tirade against the guy who cut you off and ponder the ways our bodies move in modern society.

I love letters.  I still write the occasional letter, though I rarely send one.  I think my life needs more letters.  Not only to communicate to others but to work through my thoughts for myself.  These daily moments that we are all so concerned with look different when I think about them as part of a larger picture, as a whole life.

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2 responses to “In defense of letters

  1. I find that letters are much more personal. When you open a letter, you know that the author took the time to pick out the paper, sit down to write it, and then wrote it by hand (and people write so little by hand these days that for some that is a hardship). I always feel a stronger connection to someone when I read a letter from them than when I read an email. Remind me to write you a letter when I get home. 🙂

    • I love the idea of the aesthetics of letters, but my handwriting is so miserable that in the end I am more interested in the quality of thought than the physical product.