There is a palpable pleasure when I let it go. The crisp edge promise something meaningful within and with a light flick of the wrist it is gone into the blue. There is a moment of hesitation when trust must take the place of any doubts that my words may or may not have contained. The sliding sound coming to an end is permanence and I am stuck with my opinion. Once the letter is in the mail I am committed to the content as its creator and the intended recipient is trusted not only to understand but also to hopefully appreciate it.
The art of the letter, in my opinion, is trust and commitment in paper form. The sender cannot rely on interpretation or body language to know how their words came across. Was it offensive? Did I say something mean or will my words get twisted into falsity? And, will the recipient understand.
I get genuine pleasure from writing letters to friends and family. I attended a boarding school for my first three years of High School. In the late nineties the internet was still dominated by AOL and dial-up. During this time any message I wanted to send to my girlfriend was over the phone or via letter. Sixty young men vying for 1.5 hours of authorized phone time meant we all became avid letter writers. I’d spend hours thinking of how to best compose the letter so it expressed the precise message I wanted to convey.
The process of letter writing has not only benefited my impersonal written communication but helped me organize my thoughts. In regular high schools deliberate speech and clarity were uncommon. Individuals I interacted with were just “too busy” to consider what they said and how they said it. This overall sense saw the rise to the “politically correct” movement of the late 90s which made every statement subject to scrutiny. We had to make sure our opinions were neutral, unoffensive and peaceful. Naturally the response to this movement was the extremist view that dominates several groups and media outlets to this day.
|Smith-Corona Silent Super|
Somewhere along the line we forgot to think of why we choose particular words. Every person is entitled to their opinion and “freedom of speech,” but that freedom now assumes that individuals can run their lips without considering the words that rush out. We forgot that our speech may be questioned and we should probably have a reason why we say what we say. Those reasons should be articulated so as to be understood. Maybe if we at a minimum make a mental note the benefits of letter writing could still shine through and make us more intelligible, respectful and honest in our interactions with others.