This past summer while sitting in the sun on my rooftop, a friend told me he still writes letters to people. I thought this absurd, as nobody writes letters anymore. Then he quoted a dead author, as he tends to do:
Letter writing is the purest form of communication between two friends across a distance, as it’s the only way you can capture who you are in that moment and share it with one person.
What the guy, John Donne, actually said was that writing letters to friends is “a kind of extasie, and a departure and secession and suspension of the soul, which doth then communicate it self to two bodies [SIC]“, but I like my friend’s version better.
With status updates, texting, IM, twitter, and the rare phone call, letter writing for the purpose of bringing those at a distance up to speed with the goings on in one’s life is now pretty obsolete. But letter writing on the whole is still really important, and totally underrated. During those times where there is an abundance of emotions and confusion bouncing between two people, sometimes a letter is the perfect prescription for clarity. It allows time for thoughtful consideration in the age of instant transmission. The skillful writer can use a letter like a surgical spreader, which is inserted into a moment to allow for inspection of a sequence in time. Like when you’re looking at a graph of the electromagnetic spectrum and there’s that one magnified portion of the visible light spectrum, because that’s what’s relevant. It can be the tool that saves a friendship that’s on the brink of total collapse because of misunderstanding. I hope.
Kind of funny that in the past people used to write letters to friends to condense long spans of time into the same physical space that I’m using now to expand a really confusing moment in time. We’re so 2013.
The title of this post comes from one of John Donne’s musings about letter writing with one of his buddies that he had a serious bromance with, but it’s even more relevant when kisses caused the confusion to merit the letter writing in the first place.