Can you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter or card from someone you care about? A sadly rare occurrence these days. It’s troubling evidence that we’re losing not only personal paper correspondence but the very skill of cursive writing. I remember learning cursive in fourth grade from a very patient nun, Sister Virginia Mary, who deployed an inspiring talent for penwomanship. For a while, I did my best to preserve that skill when called upon to produce test answers or essays, long before computers entered the fray.
As an adult, I allowed my cursive writing to deteriorate because I always was ‘busy’ and evidently felt I could not spare the extra seconds to render the letters with some grace. I’ve returned to taking that extra moment with notes to people I love. The tactility of handwriting lends itself to quiet disclosure, to vulnerability and tenderness, to humor and playfulness. It’s reviewable and thus ‘hotter’ than the spoken word. The habit makes me happy.
In all written communication we reach for human connection, but each delivery medium offers a different texture of experience. Light years beyond the speed of a handwritten and posted note or letter, there’s email. We get rapid delivery of epistles whether or not the parties are viewing their emails at the same time. My prime directives: Never ever send an email in anger. Beware of cc’s.
Then we’ve got speed-of-light comms: texting. I’d resisted texting for a while, preferring to sort out life logistics with a conversation rather than five to six back-and-forths on my phone screen. Texting bullied its way into common use, like saturation bombing, with cloying iconography. Do symbols convey emotions better than words? I still prefer simple one- or two- line information bullets, mainly because I never got the hang of typing on my phone’s tiny keyboard with more than one finger. (I know!)
Uneasily, I await awaiting speed-of-thought comms, something like the Vulcan ‘mind-meld’, that dispels interpersonal confusion, even fosters empathy, at least until our monkey-minds swirl it away with spontaneous new thoughts and feelings. At least this connection would relieve me of illiteracy in the scores of non-English languages I’ve not learned.
A ‘meld’ still would be second best to a finely handwritten letter, preferably subtly scented. On inhale you conjure a full-blooded memory of the loved sender. Truly those comms soothe the soul. They remain reassuringly accessible – at least until the Post Office goes the way of the drive-in movie. Mittere litteras.