Wednesday, June 17, 2015
On Letters and Patience
I am not a patient person, it is a virtue that in almost all aspects of my life I do not possess. But when I write a letter I have patience. Because when you put a letter in the mail there is no smoke signal that goes up the moment the recipient reads it. Sometimes you get some sort of recognition that it has been received via txt or email or Facebook message, but for the most part when you drop a letter into that blue box and entrust it into the hands of a postal carrier you are completely letting go of it. You assume that it will make it to its final destination. But even in today's world of tracking numbers and planes there is still a chance that it might just get lost along the way, that a gust of wind might pick it up off that pile and it will go where the wind takes it never to reach its intended recipient or it might just sit in the rain for a bit too long making those pen strokes bleed together into an illegible blue mess. And even if it does embark on the journey safely, it is really a toss up as to when it will arrive. Because that depends entirely on where it is going, which mailbox you put it in and if you made it in time for the last pick up of the day, and what day of the week you mailed it out on. It could be a day or so or it could be many, perhaps even a whole week. Then of course there is the off chance that the recipient isn’t even in town so then who knows when they will open that letter. When I put a letter in the mail i let it go. I forget which words i wrote down. I forget what its intended purpose was. I relinquish all control and I put my faith in the US postal service and i hope that it makes it to its final destination in one piece. I believe that whoever receives it will appreciate the words that i wrote, that they will mean something, but i expect nothing in return. I do not expect a note in return or a thank you call. When you write a letter, your part of the story ends the moment you put it in the mail. And there is peace in that.
Email is an entirely different story. In this world where so many things are instantaneous when I hit send on an email I expect it to take no more than a minute to get to you. I expect you to stop in your tracks and let go of whatever you are doing and to sit down on a park bench (because in these kind of scenarios there is always a park bench) and i expect you to soak up those words (however silly they may be). Then without a moments hesitation i expect you to write back and until i get something back i will obsessively check my email for hours and days and weeks. Why is an email any different than a letter? Just because an email sends instantaneously and magically travels through space and time to arrive at your inbox that doesn’t mean that your inbox is open or that you aren’t busy or that it doesn’t get lost among the clutter mixed in with the sales ads and bills. The difference, for me at least, is that when i send an email, i don’t just want to send mail one way, what i am really grasping for is a conversation. A history of back and fourths where a screen gets transformed into a coffee shop and you don’t seem so far away. I want a white mug and afternoon sunlight and to hear the laughter that my silly rambled out words caused. I want to know that anything can be said and that you are right there. I want to feel that we aren’t separated by thousand of miles. I want time and space to fade away and for us to be connected to the right here and right now. I want community.
Why not pick up the phone you may ask? Well because the phone isn’t what it once was. To me calling someone feels like i am inconveniencing them, because the phone isn’t stationary it is just as fluid as they are, it goes everywhere, it is in movie theaters and Sunday services and family dinners and silent walks through the woods in search of solitude, it is now a part of our moments, good and bad. I would hate to interrupt your moments. It use to be easy you called and either someone answered or they didn’t. But now, most often than not phone calls are an interruption into ones daily activities. And frankly it just isn’t the same.
So I write letters. I send them out hoping that they are treasured and that they matter, that they bring a tiny little brightness to someones day, like running into a friend you haven’t seen at your grocery store. Because what i have found about letters, is that it does not matter how many you send, they are always unexpected.