Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Used to Write Letters, I Used to Sign My Name

Does anybody remember being younger and being excited to get a letter in the mail? I do. Letters from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, postcards from friends on vacation, birthday cards...the list goes on. It was always such a singular pleasure to open a sealed envelope, knowing that whatever was inside was intended specifically for my eyes. Of course, as I got older, I got more mail. You would think that would make the novelty wear off, but you'd be wrong, because most of the mail I get these days consists of solicitations for services I either already have from another (or the same) company or that I don't need, invitations to apply for more debt than I already have accumulated, and demands that I pay for the services I use daily and the stuff I've purchased using credit or loans (in the vernacular, we call those "Bills" which reminds me of a funny story I need to tell you later).

But letters, actual real letters written by somebody I know, addressed personally to me, with salutations and inside jokes and a signature in ink...that is the kind of rare treat I love to get. And the pleasure is becoming increasingly rare for everyone in these days. Which is too bad, because while it's nice to be able to reach anyone anywhere with a cell phone, text them, e-mail them, instant message them, stalk them on Facebook, Google them constantly every day to see what they're up to...oh, um, not that I stalk anyone or Google people I know...umm...[Editor's note: Elliot is taking a break from blogging to delete his search history and learning how to use private browsing modes]...sorry, for a second there I had to, uh, cuddle with the cat. Daughter. One or both of those two things, yes.

Some of the great minds of our past were prolific letter writers, and some of those letters have since been bound and published and are a great wealth of information and insight into the minds of genius. Imagine being able to read the personal thoughts of someone like Einstein or Mark Twain, Carl Sagan, Robert Browning, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, John and Abigail Adams, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy...amazing what you might learn about their thought processes, their struggles, their emotions and concerns. And the best are those correspondences which have been fully archived, such as the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence of Philosophical argument. What treasures can be found in letters!

But imagine trying to publish a book of all the e-mails two great minds of our future may have exchanged. Here is an imagined example:


Subject: Weekend Plans

Hey dude, coming in to town this weekend. I'll call you with details. We should hit up the bars.

Subject: Re: Weekend Plans

Damn, man, I'm actually going to be in Chicago this weekend. Gotta get some stuff from Ikea and hang out with a friend for her birthday. When are you going to be back?

Subject: Re: Re: Weekend Plans

Too bad, I'm taking off Monday morning. If you're back in time on Sunday, we should get some ice cream or something.

Also, have you seen this photo of this hilarious cat?

Attachment: hugging_kitten.jpg


I normally doen't send these along but thus wun frEaKed me out way 2 much they're are scary things in this wurld! (and I told you Obama was a socialist Nazi commie terrorist Muslin elitist)



You get the idea. And before you ask, no, those are not (to my knowledge) real e-mail addresses, nor are these e-mails transcripts of e-mails I have either sent or received. Promise.

And what would be even worse would be a book of back and forth text messages or tweets:


(314) Just got out of class meet u @ starbucks

(612) No can do maybe tomorsmy

(314) Tomorsmy?

(612) Stupid T9 my phone thinks tomorsmy is a word when I mean tomorsmy

(314) whatever i will c u tomorrow

(612) that's the word i was trying 2 say :)


PhysicsRox: Going to eat a burger made w/ Krispy Kreme for a bun yum!

NotALoveStory042: @PhysicsRox why do you eat death?

PhysicsRox: @NotALoveStory042 Maybe not the best idea, my stomach is killing me.

NotALoveStory042: @PhysicsRox damn that looks tasty I'll be right there.

NotALoveStory042: my stomach is killing me.


While it may be entertaining, it adds nothing to the process of whatever these two people get into for their passion (presumable for the one guy he likes physics and the Red Sox while the other guy is maybe a writer?*) and also, it doesn't show any of the possible depth their friendship may actually have.

To that end, my good friend Zach and I have begun a correspondence via letter. And it feels great to open the envelopes, and equally great to seal them. Signing my name feels good. We write about what we do (he's a particle physicist), we write about the people in our lives, plans for upcoming events (mutual friends' weddings, holidays), and the pleasure of sending and receiving letters.

Get yourself a pen pal, everybody. And write with substance. Talk about your life, your longings, your yearnings, your passions. Don't type it up as a computer file, make contact with the paper, the pen in your hand. Or, if you have bad handwriting (like I do), get yourself a typewriter at a thrift shop and hammer away at those keys. And please, sign in ink. It feels good. Trust me, I know. I'm a writer.


*Yes, that is exactly what I was intending all along because this is a fictional universe in which my friend Zach and I text, e-mail and tweet at each other, and we're also really ridiculously inane about more than music, bikes, guitars and Douglas Adams. Again, fictional universe.


Anonymous said...

those emails/tweets are totally straight out of my life, pretty much verbatim.
are you POSITIVE you weren't wiretapping multiple conversations bailey tantsits & i had?
no matter your answer I will know you did.

Becca said...

Whatev. Emily and I totally share deep and meaningful thoughts via email. For example, just yesterday I sent this:

"I soooooooo want to make those! How cute and fun! Aargh.... too much stuff to make, not enough time or money... At least my costume is sorted. : D Anyways, thought you may enjoy them too."

See, clearly a great mind at work - and with emails you get pictures too! I don't know that I would have included sketches of those monster brownies in a letter... LOL. Receiving letters and parcels is awesome. Maybe that is why I'm addicted to online shopping.

Anyways, everyone should want to be my penpal since I live in the wholly awesome country of New Zealand. And getting post from overseas is even more exciting then getting post from your own country.