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2017-10-08 17:38
By William Roger Jones



I have three parcels of postal letters that brought evidence of the journey they had made to their destination. They show the marks of time and tell so much about the writers' lives. They are part of my personal archive materials. I know they won't mean so much to others and will one day burn or become part of a landfill. Well, they are about the past and it is most certain that minds have changed, lives have been lost, and new loves discovered. Finding some of my own writings and that from friends and family restores lost memories and portrays an evolution and transformation in the lives and times of all. The letters that really intrigue me are those in Greek and Hindi with bits and pieces of broken English that tell me a little of their concerns.

You have heard of the lost art of letter writing and the death of letter writing. But, it shall not be by my hand. I miss setting pen to paper and receiving such correspondence from others. Snail mail is always a pleasant surprise. "Emails are a poke," nothing more than a telegram, "but letters," more composed, "are a caress and they stick around to be newly discovered."

Alexander Graham Bell initiated the decline in letter writing with his invention that enabled people to talk directly with each other across large distances. Finally, with the birth and growth of internet email and text messaging, that exploded exponentially by the early 1990s, added further to the decline of it. Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Takao Talk, and LINE, et cetera have relegated stationery to those of us who remember and who are eccentric or simply old-fashioned. To the young person today, letter writing is an unknown art form. Communication by texting is their most common cell phone activity (Pew Research Center, May 2016). College students spend 94 minutes a day texting, on average (Journal of Behavioral Addictions, May 2016). Adults aged 18 to 24 send and receive over 128 texts every day (Experian Marketing Services, May 2016).

I am persuaded that letters shall continue to be exchanged among those with a passion and who cherish staying in touch in a more meaningful and personable manner. These intimate bilateral communications between individuals create literary magic that binds them like no other communication can. Motivation for letter writing must come from within. Perhaps, esteem for someone that they are worthy of your personal time and thought that is not distracted, deeper, and having measured concentration in which eloquent use of language is better attempted. That you would actually go through the trouble of purchasing nice stationery, and, then sit down and actually give them the time of day in your very own penmanship shows them that you appreciate them and that you think they are important.

Virginia Woolf tells us letter writing is "the humane art, which owes its origins to the love of friends,” connecting mind to mind and believing more fully in each other’s existence. This epistolary genre can be a welcomed “unannounced visit,” especially, if it is a billet-doux!

 

The writer has taught conversational English for 15 years. He currently works for Virginia State University. His e-mail address is: wrjones@vsu.edu. 

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