Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Pen and the Keyboard: Letter to a Friend

Christmas is the time when my life slows down. The cry of "Discounts" and "Sales" is like a momentary wind - If I am not taking cover, I can usually let it blow over me, feeling it but letting it pass. It is during this period that I often have space to focus a little more on my inner life, close friends, and family.

It was during the Christmas period just gone that I was affected by a telephone conversation I had with a friend. I was affected in a quiet way, as though a seed had been planted in consciousness. My friend told me that she had been spending this period writing to friends, in particular those with whom the friendship had got stuck - and she was writing, not to explain that she was right and they were wrong, but to bring more awareness into her relationships. What I found so refreshing was firstly her sincerity in supporting her relationships to grow, and secondly, that rather than sitting in front of a screen tapping an email on a keyboard, she was instead largely writing letters, using a paper and pen.

As she spoke, I was swept into distant memories of what it had felt like to receive a handwritten letter from a close friend - the appreciation of the effort it had taken to write it, the (usually!) more thoughtful content and deeper levels of expression, the pull of aspects of the handwriting and illegible bits that took time to decipher - and although writing emails is 'efficient', the ease and speed with which they are sent means the attention we give to each has lessened. A quality of experience has been eroded - and my friend was demonstrating how it could so easily be revived.

It was about three weeks later, just a few days ago in fact, when I finally took the plunge and wrote a letter to a friend of mine. I wrote to someone I hadn't spoken to for a year, and had not written a letter to for at least ten, but a friend with whom I had spent quite alot of time throughout my teens. We had met at a martial arts club in Coventry and spent many a time sparring and working out together. We also knew one another's families. We were now travelling along quite different paths in life, but shared a bond of common experience.

Just putting pen to paper was an experience, that felt noticeably more expansive than what I usually feel in front of the screen a couple of clicks away from any one of thousands of emails. I felt able to have my friend in consciousness more clearly, and my writing flowed. I said things that I might not have said on email, and knew that he would give more time to take it in. A couple of days later, he called me. He was so pleased to have gotten the letter, that he called as soon as he had read it, and thanked me for writing.

So, here I am, having just had an experience of something that is so out of fashion that it feels like a novelty. I hope to carry on writing the occasional letter - and as an environmentalist whilst I appreciate that writing letters uses paper, and email doesn't, I'm simultaneously aware of a deeper experience, one of wholeness and stillness that I got out of writing a letter and that I found nurturing to the soul - something that is another world to the conveyor belt mode of contemporary life which pulls us to our next material fix.


Knox (Wasi) said...

Long live the hand-written letter. I've always loved writing letters, and even now that the age of e-mail, text and messenger has taken over 'snail-mail', I still have friends who I regularly correspond with by letter. There is something so special about getting a letter hand-written by a friend - nothing electronic quite compares to finding 'you've got mail' on the doormat. And writing letters - I have to agree that it's much easier and more natural to put more of oneself into a letter written by hand - something, maybe, to do with flow and connecting.
Thanks for sharing.

shumaisa said...

I feel like I reflect more before putting my thoughts on paper -partly because I don't want to waste paper. And I've found a nice way to get around the paper issue is to write on the back of outdated flyers of interesting events- it makes the letter more colorful for the recipient too! I have also noticed that I keep very few of my email letters from friends, but keep all my handwritten letters.