10 February 2011

The Decline of the Written Word



"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium." ~Norbet Platt

"Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies."  ~Terri Guillemets

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."  ~Mark Twain


Model, Melissa
NPR had an episode today on its Here and Now program entitled, "Sifting Through Love Letters Of The Past". I thought they made some interesting observations. It aired on the heels of another segment."Postal Service Plans Thousands of Closures", where they discussed the US Postal Service's need to reinvent itself and thus both issues were connected. The Love Letters segment was of particular interest because it dealt with the seeming loss of the Written Word. This interesting discussion brought to the forefront of my mind the truth of how lovers now communicate. One of the reasons the Postal Service is losing business is because we now have the internet and email to communicate electronically. We have America Online, YahooMail, GoogleMail, HotMail, etc. A plethora of venues to open as many email accounts as we choose to keep track of. We no longer require the hand written note that where the time to reach the recipient is measured in days, not minutes, which has given the rise to the moniker...Snail Mail.



We can reach anyone anywhere instantly, as if email was not quick enough. We can now text a message to someone else who has a cell phone. On the computer we can INSTANT message someone to text in real time. In fact, presently we can use Skype to actually talk and video conference a person if we don't feel like typing. With a microphone and a video cam, we can see and hear each other in real time with barely any hesitation in the connection speed. The Postal Service has been impacted from many of the free or low cost instant services. Personally, I rarely ever need a stamp. UPS, FEDex, and DHL have steadily eaten into USPS market share to deliver the products we order online. Technology has advanced at an alarming rate and many of us take it for granted. We expect the instant contact. Many cell phones can also allow video while you talk much the same way we once saw only on Star Trek or Dick Tracy.

So what has been the impact on these tech advancements? What have we lost? Well, for once, we've lost a means of expressing passion. I HEART U in a text message doesn't quite do it the same way a hand written note  expressing the same sentiments might. We have also lost a portion of memorabilia. I still have in a box ALL the handwritten letters I sent to my wife while deployed overseas. That was my means of staying connected. I wrote in volumes, trust me. In this same box, I also have to my knowledge all the handwritten love letters I wrote my wife when we were teen-agers first falling in love. Some are written on Braum's Ice Cream napkins from where we both worked, met, and fell in love. I took the liberty of scotch-tapping them to plain notebook paper and putting them into a binder with the rest of the letters. I wrote poetry and poured out my feelings for her in page after page of romantic script. Our relationship was one of scandal in that she was of a particular religious faith that prohibited our relationship to the extent of risking her relationship with her own family. She chose me at the expense of all else. Her parents disowned her and she was forbidden contact with her other 7 other siblings of which she was oldest. Her church turned its back on her as did all of her friends. I am almost certain that my two grown up kids would not exist today had it not been for those letters.

Now granted, I don't believe the human population has been subjected to any sort of risk of reduction in numbers because love letters as we know them have potentially reduced. Hormones, Hollywood, and porn will still see to that. But I do think there is a quality of life that is no longer with us when the written word has been truncated and replaced with OMG and LOL. Handwriting used to be a learned skill...a craftsmanship that was held to high regard. Calligraphy used to be a recognized art form. The one who possessed the skill of penmanship and eloquent prose melted hearts in a way that cannot be compared to the cold verbage in an email. It was personal. It meant something. Since listening to these two broadcasts, I've retrieved the letters from my former marriage that lasted some 17 years. They are memorabilia and keepsakes now that is so much more meaningful that your Inbox file history on GMail. Change is inevitable. There are great benefits to technology and scientific advancements. Mankind moves forward with time, but it does not do so without sacrifice...the merit of which is not presently fully understood.

Enjoy these shots of Melissa from a while back.

6 comments:

unbearable lightness said...

With me, you're preaching to the choir, T :-)

Photo Anthems.com said...

And I know that all too well, Beautiful Lady.

Joanie said...

Amen!

I still send handwritten thank you notes and cards and letters because it's so much more personal and, frankly, I have a lot of friends who are very special and deserve the effort it takes to actually post a letter via good old fashioned mail.

On the other hand, there's something really kind of amazing about getting an email from my dad. 80 years old and reaching out through the ether.

Any form of communication has its merits (remember sitting at Blueberry Hill discussing this last year? I vowed NEVER to have a cellphone with texting or a camera...ahem...it happened anyway) as long as the intent is there and as long as your heart is in the message. Yeah, talk about a turnaround in my thinking!

And on yet another hand, nothing beats face to face conversation or a beautifully penned letter. It's special.

Obviously I have more hands than I can count.

Photo Anthems.com said...

For me, I know I write better than I speak sometimes. I can be impassioned when I talk to soldiers or for a cause I care about. When it comes to the language of love, I'm best putting pen to paper. Then by the time my mouth opens, the tasking is must less... taxing!

Dave Rudin said...

I have still have the letters that my cousin Craig wrote to me when we corresponded as kids and then teenagers, writing first about "Lost in Space" and then moving on to "Star Trek." My cousin left us several years back due to heart failure, and I haven't looked at those letters in years, but I will never part with them.

What's also disheartening is not just the loss of penmanship but also simple grammatical skills, as if one can be less respectful sending an e-mail or some other e-message than when writing an actual real letter. (Maybe it's a bit how I feel like the difference between digital and analog photography.)

Photo Anthems.com said...

Its EXACTLY the way you feel about analog and digital, Dave. And I'm inclined to agree.