“More than kisses, letters mingle souls”

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.

Thinkers Writing

How to Quit

…Then a friend put an arm around me. I found my way to some edge, thin as a thread, where the panic turned into laughter.

This is the diamond in the mind, this ability. A lot of people know about it, but I didn’t know about it.

From then on when panic crept in I could just push over the thread-thin edge to the other side, feeling the way to joy.

Joy is the knowledge that the thread is there.

A thread runs through the middle of your life, and if you find it, the second half can be comedy instead.

A place can make you want to die and then you can turn it over into the sweetest thing. You can do this yourself, if you have found the diamond in your mind.

Addiction is sometimes the attempt to raise the dead by returning to the scene. If you can’t yet abandon the dead, at least you can practice abandonment, and will perhaps in that way be on your way to finding the world.

-Excerpt from How to Quit, by Kristin Dombeck, n+1

I’m still learning how to find that thread. I saw it once, but I don’t know where I was when I saw it and I don’t know how to get back there from the place where I’ll be when I need to find it again.

Entropy Writing

Wanted: Mildly sadistic editor with egg timer

In my 11th grade AP English class, we used to begin every day with an exercise in response writing. Mrs. Smith would write a word, phrase, or provocative quote on the black board and set an egg timer for three minutes. In those three minutes we had to write a “journal entry” in a notebook solely dedicated to those exercises. The deal was, we could write about anything, and she would never read our journals. She would just flip through the pages a few times throughout the semester and check them off to make sure we’d actually been writing while the timer was running.

The point of this exercise was to build up confidence in our ability to churn out content. It was a skill that was highly necessary on the standardized tests we were all constantly preparing for, but I had a hunch that Mrs. Smith had other reasons for her assignment as well. After all, this was the teacher who one day, after we had all gotten situated and were waiting quietly for class to begin, blared Barbara Streisand’s “People” on the CD player, to our horror, to break us of the habit of using the word repetitively as a subject (people think this, people do that, etc..). She once broke the sacred “teachers don’t swear” rule to illustrate her opinion of how the word “fuck” was the epitome of classlessness and that there was always a better word choice. She tended to go to extremes to drill important lessons into our heads.