On Letters

Dear Friend,

I hope this electronic letter finds you healthy and in good spirits. It’s wonderful to be able to write down my thoughts and send them to you. I can ramble on at random, or focus upon one or two topics. To convey one’s thoughts and reflections to another person in writing is a truly miraculous thing. To sit at the desk or writing table and pick up a pen and put ink to paper is a uniquely human activity. In this case, today, I use the new-fangled technology of a laptop computer and tap on the keys. To put thoughts into writing and then send them via the Postal Service or the Internet is profoundly amazing. Yet we more or less take this activity for granted.

There are times when I’ve written expository communications that seem like essays or prompts for novellas. At other times, I enclose a few photographs to display projects I’ve completed or of things that bring joy. Are these simple communiqués of world-shattering importance? At the times when they were written they seemed to be. In hindsight, perhaps they were not. I wrote them so as to understand topics and concepts from a more objective perspective. To at least attempt to convey our concerns and joys is one way we can bless others and ourselves without resorting to religiousity. However, one may reflect upon philosophical and spiritual matters from time to time when the occasion feels appropriate.

The great English author, poet, and mathematician Charles Dodgson, whose pen name was Lewis Carroll, once wrote, “The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters.” I reflected upon this quote the other day and formulated an unscientific, inconclusive opinion that you can take or discard as you wish. That is with the practical demise of the art of letter writing in society, has come an alarming decline in civility and much chaotic, selfish behavior en masse. Whether this is a factor, a causal fallacy, or if it is merely a correlation may be up for debate. Yet, in my opinion this seems to be more than coincidental.

There is certain genuine quality about a communiqué that begins with the salutation, “Dear —–“; then concluding the message with the words, “Sincerely yours”, or “Affectionately” that implies earnestness and integrity. This is one reason why I end blog posts with “Ciao” or “Namaste”. On the surface, such formality seems trivial. The fact is, words do matter. In the case of personal letters to a relative or friend, the opening and closing phrases represent candor and goodwill. The truth be told is that social conventions are important.

In the instances of letter writing to a friend or a lover, the letter can be interpreted as a gift. Someone has set aside time to ponder, and express in writing a message. In this sense, a personal letter is an expression of love. Do you have a cache of love letters from the past? Do you keep old letters from family on file? I admit that I keep such letters in a special place and the intentions of the letters in my heart. I hope everyone has at least a few agreeable letters stored away somewhere.

In this day and age of instant, superficial communication, life is more bearable when we have somebody to physically write to. Life is even more pleasant when we have someone who actually physically returns the favor. Even if there is only one person with whom this activity is shared, the mind feels more at ease. There are few surprises more precious than to find a personally hand-addressed envelope from a loved one waiting inside your postal mailbox.

In a certain sense, to compose letters is an intent to relay messages to the future. We speak of present or past matters to a third party who is not physically present with us. That third party is otherwise unaware of our mood and disposition while we write the letter and sometime later when she/he reads it. The time delay is short if the letter is delivered electronically; and it is longer if delivered by the Postal Service. Some amount of measurable delay is a fact. This means that the present feelings are transformed into thoughts that take place in the mind of the recipient in the future.

Unhappily, letter writing has become anachronistic. It seems to be a quaint relic passed down from the 17-hundreds when people of those times believed in the truth of the written word and the sacred honor of the people who wrote them down. Now, in the 22nd century, words have become debased by deceptive advertising, insincere clergy, manipulative politicians, and intentionally fraudulent scammers. Words are now cheap and can be automatically generated electronically with efficient apps and programs. In my opinion, the degredation of words and communication has contributed to social cynicism and perhaps to the eventual downfall of civilization.

In my opinion, it is important to preserve the letter-writing tradition by actually writing letters to people who matter most to us. While a “Like” on Facebook may be a positive gesture from an internet “friend”, there’s nothing comparable to written ink on paper communication conveyed via the mail system.

Until my next communiqué, be well.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Jane Austen’s novel Emma. “You have everybody dearest to you always at hand; I, probably, never shall again; and therefore, till I have outlived all my affections, a post office, I think, must always have power to draw me out in worse weather than today.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Friendship, Meanderings, philosophy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to On Letters

  1. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘On Letters’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  2. tiostib says:

    I agree completely with your premise. We are a much less civilized world without the thoughtful, sincere, intimate exchange of letters. Thank you for the reminder, I shall keep on writing and sending them.

  3. Pingback: The rambled letter – Ananya Mahadevan. – ananyamahadevan

  4. You’ve identified one of the overlooked benefits of writing letters. I think longhand writing seems more sincere and authentic. Imagine if the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were word documents.

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