Thursday, January 17, 2008

Farewell


I want to call attention to the passing of an old friend.  Someone we all knew. S(he) had been struggling for quite a while now, and I'm sorry to report that death has come for the letter.  Remember the letter?   Produced by hand, by way of the brain, the letter came in various colors, was done chiefly but not exclusively by pen or pencil, and arrived in the mailbox.  Part of the letter's appeal was its tactile quality.  Letters felt fine.  hey could be thick or thin, long or short, welcome or unwelcome,incredibly artistic, or barely legible.  I think that was part of the appeal.  With the rise of email and various alterations to the human production of text, the letter had died.  Therein lies the tradeoff.  With the demise of this intensely human endeavor, what might the impact on humanity be?  I'll be watching.
I've noticed that emails easily get lost.  Harder to ignore a letter.  Can't click delete.  I recently heard a friend of mine tell other friends, "If you send me an email and I don't respond within the hour, assume it's lost or gone."  Wow! That simplifies personal agendas, but at what risk?  I've noticed, too, that people feel free to ignore emails.  
I like the brevity of emails; you don't get caught with lengthy talkers who never come up for air.  But it seems as if people choose to ignore emails whereas they would think twice about letters.  So...are we perfecting the art of marginalizing people.  Bad enough we have to wade through their false imagery, now we can expect to be ignored.  I'd like to add that thought to the reality/actuality debate.  If emails are reality, letters are actuality.   The other day I saw where some guy has invented and patented a new family activity.  It's a personal mailbox for children in a family.  Each kid has a decorated real mailbox, and on stationery provided in the starter kit, parents and other family members write letters to the kids and place them in the mailboxes.  They even get to raise the little red flag too.  Great idea, no?   Maybe it has come to that. 

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