Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Importance of Writing Letters.

I’ll set the scene…

Pressing against your front door, you step into the foggy, overcast glow of a misty day. The birds are calling; the trees drip with water. A breeze brushes against your face, sending the hair on the back of your neck into a fervor. Minuscule droplets of rain grace the lids of your eyes. Briskly, you dart down your porch steps and strut along your driveway. Reaching the end, you drop the flap of your mailbox with conviction and reach inside. The anticipation is nearly unbearable. Your fingertips can feel the rough organic surface of a letter. Pulling it out, you close your eyes for just a moment. Where did it come from? Who wrote it? You open your eyes…

Could you feel that? That’s what millions of people experienced every day before the advent of mobile phones, the internet, and social media. The ardor of receiving a letter in the mail from a friend or loved one was the highlight of the day for many. It kept people together, despite the countless miles that may separate them physically. Much less, a letter represented the act of willing thoughts and feelings into existence. What once resided solely in the mind of the writer now had life; a letter was a tangible embodiment of sentiment.

I fear we’ve lost that crucial connection of sentiment in the Twenty-First Century. Never have people been more connected, but also more alone.

The older I get, the more I miss getting letters, cards, and postcards from friends, family, and pen pals. When I was a teenager, receiving mail seemed like second nature; it was a facet of life that I took for granted. Even receiving magazines in the post was something to get excited over.

Magazines… remember those? Nintendo Power and Wizard, I weep for both of you.

Barreling towards my forties, I miss what I once so carelessly took for granted. When I do receive a card or letter, it genuinely warms my heart. Thanks to the select few of you that still send me things in the mail; you know who you are.

Letters embody the purposeful communion of love and friendship between people. The effort to write down your ideas, address an envelope, purchase a stamp, and place the letter in a mailbox certainly isn’t a difficult task. And yet, that uncomplicated journey is a task with meaning. It takes motivation. Nowadays, one person can send another person a text message while using the bathroom, giving no further thought to the sheer magnitude of what they just accomplished. We can wondrously tweet and instant message and snap and kik and blow up our BFF’s Instagram simultaneously in the same time it takes to put on our shoes.

I feel disgusting for that last sentence; please forgive me for momentarily talking like a modern teenager.

Writing letters teaches us patience, sincerity, and gratitude. It humbles our sense of self in an ever-expanding world of technology. To think, words that could require months to arrive, as recently as a mere thirty years ago, can now be shared in an instant. By increasing the quantity of words that we share, have we not lessened their quality? A letter carries weight by sheer necessity, projecting the most important and heartfelt invocations of humanity itself.

Modern technology is fantastic. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to reach you with this very article. That being said, the use of technology also carries a measure of personal responsibility with it. As a collective society, we’ve lost a part of our identity to technology – our ability to project sincere feelings, to create bonds, to maintain relationships. We’ve practically become disposable to each other, much in the same way that we disregard the deluge of instantaneous dispatches that flood our cell phones, timelines, and feeds. Letters circumvent this pitfall by forcing us to take each other with earnest regard. As such, I recommend sending pieces of handwritten mail to your friends and family whenever possible. Not only is it a delight for the receiver, but it’s also a healthy alternative to throw-away cables sent over the internet. Writing truly is terrific for your spirit.

I know I’m fighting a losing battle here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least try to turn this ship around. When I send someone a piece of snail mail, I’m trying to establish a connection. Sometimes it works out, but more often than not it doesn’t. Ultimately, I’m left asking myself…

What will be left to salvage of our civilization when the majority of our conversations carry such negligible significance?

If you would like to exchange mail with me (and I would hope you would), then let me know in the comment section below.

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