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Tag Archives: Letters

A Thousand Words

Quote by Hunter S. Thompson

Quote by Hunter S. Thompson

 

You know that saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, I disagree. A picture can convey a lot of meaning but comparing pictures to words is a bit like the old “apples to oranges” idiom. Different people relate to the world in different ways. Some people prefer pictures as a method of communication and interpretation. Some people prefer words. Some people prefer other methods, but I’m not writing about any of those today. Words and pictures together often create a harmony of communication, but if I had to choose only one, I would go with words. I suppose that’s a bit like saying I would prefer to be blind as opposed to deaf. I don’t really want to be either of those things and I feel blessed that all my senses work. It may be open to debate how well I use them, but medically speaking, I am fully operational. I have noticed that some people with functional senses and measurable intelligence don’t favor any method of complex communication. This phenomenon baffles me. The ability to communicate in multiple ways is as essential to being human as having opposable thumbs. Why would anyone choose to remain an enigma of humanity?

I like words. I am a writer.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, duh. State the obvious much? I’m reading her blog. I know she’s a writer.”

Yes, sometimes I find it comforting to state the obvious. I also like to state the obscure and absurd. And I like to write. Lots of words and frequently. I love that this form of communication is, to the best of my knowledge, uniquely human. I’ve always thought that if I could write the perfect sentence, crafted in the perfect way, whomever I was trying to communicate with would be able to understand the totality of my intent and therefore, be able to understand the totality of me. Unfortunately, most of the time, I can’t even say I understand the smallest part of myself terribly well. It makes for a bit of a conundrum.

I have always been a writer. That is to say, I have always been partial to communicating by the written word. I grew up in a time before email, and text messages, and before shorthand, terse communication was all the rage. I feel like those things have become an excuse for people to be lazy with not only writing, but with conveying thoughts and intentions completely, in any way. I don’t tend to write short texts with abbreviations in place of words, and I have been known, when emotion prevails, to write long, manifesto-type emails. My penchant for communication via the written word seems to make me a dinosaur of sorts, and I think it annoys some people. Writing, reading and speaking thoughtfully, fully and deliberately, is a lost art and most people are too busy to be bothered. I miss phone conversations, which are also a rare commodity these days, but mostly I miss sending and receiving letters.

When I was a kid there was only one phone company, Ma Bell (colloquial-speak for the Bell Telephone Company, for those of you too young to remember). The entire central and eastern part of Massachusetts, where I grew up,  had the same area code (617). Any call outside that area code was long distance, and long distance was expensive. If I had a friend living outside of 617, we communicated through letters. At the end of first grade, a friend I had known since I was 3 moved out-of-state. I missed her so I wrote to her. We kept writing back and forth until we were both in college. We’ve lost touch over the last 20 odd years but she was my first pen pal. She was far from the last. When friends moved away or went on vacation, I wrote to them and they wrote to me. When we all went to college we wrote to each other. When I made friends at camp or traveling, we wrote. I wrote to cousins I barely knew who lived out of state. We wrote real letters with paper and stamps. We sent each other small, silly gifts and drew pictures on the envelopes. It used to be exciting to go to a stationary store. (Do those still exist?) It used to be exciting to go to the mailbox.

I didn’t just write to people who lived far away though. All through junior high and high school, my friends and I wrote notes. We passed them in the halls or stuck them in each others lockers. My sister and I wrote notes and letters to our next door neighbors. Sometimes we even wrote to each other. I still have boxes in storage that contain a portion of the letters I received during my younger and more prolific days. I go through them every so often, the same way I read old journals every few years. The letters, notes and journals are my history, all written down, like in the olden days. There are very few letters from the last 20 years and almost none from the last decade. How will my personal history be kept, and who will know and understand me for the rest of my life if there are no more letters? How will I understand myself? Email and texts are convenient, and a necessary part of life and business these days but they lack personality. They are disposable and temporary ways to communicate. I am guilty of losing motivation to communicate the long way around too, but it makes me sad that the art and emotion of telling our lives to loved ones through handwritten letters has become virtually (pun intended) defunct.

I suppose I have latched on to this blog-world of writing because it affords me the space to relate my thoughts without assaulting busy and less communication-driven friends with endless emails or texts. I have gotten out of the habit of making sure that I have physical addresses for everyone who lives out-of-state, never mind anyone who lives close by, and I rarely have stamps anyway. I have lots of email addresses and phone numbers (that I almost never call), and I can message people on Facebook, but the contacts made through those mediums almost always lack soul. It’s nice to be able to reach out or catch up almost instantly, but this new sound-bite-communication-world-order depresses me. And I hate sending texts or emails with information or queries and getting thoughtless, incomplete or one-word responses. It makes me feel like I wasn’t worth the time and effort. I can wait for a well-executed response. In fact, a thoughtfully written, longhand response, sent through the United States Postal Service would make for a nostalgic thrill. Of course no one has my home address either . . .

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