I had a good friend as a young child. She and I would do everything together. We would play Ghostbusters and imagine catching ghosts in our respective house. We would play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and fight off Shredder and the foot with the most deft of karate moves untrained 5 year olds could muster. She was unequivocally my best friend, as 5 year old friendships went. Then her father was transferred to the mysterious place called Iowa. Even at our young age, we promised to keep in touch by writing each other (texting and social media were not an option). We probably wrote 3-4 letters to each other over the course of a year. Then, we stopped writing, for no relational reason; we didn’t have a letter fight, we just fell in with our lives without each other.
I really enjoyed the process of letter writing. Writing from the heart, sharing the most mundane but important things, signing your name, then sending it off. After that, the wait started. When will she respond? What will she say? What will be attached? Excitement would build until one day a letter addressed in children’s handwriting would arrive. Such an arrival was usually greeting with jumping in excitement.
Fast forward twenty years, not a personal letter had been sent by me to anyone. I began to into the world of fountain pens. I found a community of fellow pen geeks on Instagram. One of them asked if I would be open to a pen pal. At first I was wary, responding in the untrustful logic of an adult. Eventually, after some thought, I acquiesced, sending him my address. A letter arrived a week later and I was taken back twenty years to the joy of receiving a letter (I nearly jumped for joy). This time, though, the letter was from a stranger, a mere avatar and photostream. I enjoyed reading his ramblings and though and seeing the different pens and inks he used. So I responded. One pen pal turned into ten from all around the world, from Los Angeles to Australia, from Canada to South Africa.
I have found letter writing is a much more personal way to communicate than the way in which I met all of my pen pals, social media. It removes the coldness of typeface and adds the warmth of a unique handwriting, whether scribble scratch or Spencerian. We communicate person to person not avatar to avatar. The avatar has a greater tendency to allow the person to hide behind good moments and the beauty of human life. A scratched letter can’t hide behind Futura typeface or filtered photographs. One communicates person to person faults and joys, quirks and triumphs.
Writing letters also gives new insight into the lives of our ancestors who used writing as THE main means of communication across distance. Children would write letter home from school. Soldiers would write home from the battlefront. Friends would keep in touch through correspondence. The written word becomes more than just something to be read but becomes the revelation of someone’s humanity, that he or she is in need of community, established, fostered, and maintained, in reality. Technology reveals man’s reason. The written word can reveal the soul that is reasonable. With each loop of the “l” and cross of the “t,” more is revealed about a certain individual well beyond his/her likes, dislikes, job, and particular cultural niche. So contact an old friend or make a new one, solicit an address and get writing. Let the relationships begin.
Over the next few posts I will share some stories with you about thing that have happend to me due to my taking up regular correspondence.