Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

I don't do it often, not in this age of instant messaging and email.

And there aren't many I do it with...only 2 that I can think of.

But sometimes, I love to sit down and write a long letter to a friend.  Then mail it.  You know, that archaic way of communication...mailed letters?

Twice in recent years I have maintained written correspondence with friends.  One of those times was with my friend who was a missionary in Africa.  We wrote consistently during her years there, but she has returned to the states and our letter writing has ended.  That's ok.  It was nice for a season.

The other is with my dear friend Kari whom I met when Cody was in graduate school in California.  She was in school, too, and we became fast friends.  We only spent about a year together in person more than a dozen years ago.  Ever since then, we have written letters.  Sometimes the letters flow regularly, other times not so much.  There are droughts, but we always return to it.

I love writing letters to Kari and reading her letters to me.  I tried to explain in my last letter how hand written letters seem more intimate to me than email for certain, but than even talking on the phone.  I guess a letter could cover shallow topics, and it does sometimes.  But often, I express my deepest thoughts in letters.  I feel free to take my time, choose my words carefully, and pen the fears, hopes, joys, and sorrows of my life.  A letter to a close friend is almost like a diary entry as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe that's why I find myself only having 2 letter writing relationships in recent years.  I wouldn't just write a letter to anyone.  A letter exposes me, creates vulnerability...and it takes time and care to create it.  That's why an old stack of love letters is so valuable.  It's why we read books full of letters famous people have written in order to have a clearer glimpse into their lives.

Letter writing brings up a sense of nostalgia in me, a longing for connectedness in a modern world that seems connected at first glance, but often lacks intimacy and authenticity.  I think people have an innate desire to know others and be known in return.  But that desire is counter-balanced by a fear of exposure, of being vulnerable.  It's important to choose carefully the people we trust, but then equally important to go ahead and let the trust flow as we embrace relationship.

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