Before we begin, a public health warning. This blog displays my leftist tendencies. If you are not this way inclined, please proceed at your own risk. Also, this will ramble all over the place. It’s a blog, its been a while, get over it.
Ness and I have started a letter writing society in Wellington. The current membership Ness and I but I am hoping this will grow. From a small acorn, the mighty oak tree grows. Anyway, I’ve been searching for new creative outlets (I need to have several on the go at once) and anything that encourages me to write has got to be a good thing. But, why letters? Why that medium?
Well it all really began with our attendance at the Women of Letters event as part of LitCrawl. It was an inspiring event which I am so glad we had the foresight to buy tickets for. The honesty in some of the letters presented for the audience and their delivery was inspiring and it got me thinking.
I have thought for some time about the slow death of the written word in our lives. I also know I am not breaking new ground here and much has been written about this subject. So in the spirit of the concept that there are no new ideas, just new ways of making them felt, here are my thoughts.
The prevalence of social media and short snippet communication is increasingly rendering most of us to people who find it hard to construct longer personal communications. You only need to look at the current President of the United States to see a perfect example of ill constructed and formed thought Tweeted out for all to see and consume, which at once plays to the masses and debases the idea of thoughtful and well reasoned leadership. Emails, of course, do have the potential to provide this longer form, but are generally are not used that way and lack a certain personal quality which comes with the written letter. I do believe we are loosing the art of writing to each other and I do think this is a great loss.
For me, the art of letter writing is similar to baking bread, making beer, making cheese, spinning wool, growing our food and many other artisan crafts. It is taking a primary thing (words) and from them constructing something new. Something that lives, is born and can be consumed. Something that draws on basic human creativity and ability to take things and make things. The loss of this skill, like the loss of knowledge in how to bake, brew, ferment etc is a loss to humanity and I believe leaves us all poorer.
In the name of progress and modernity we have been led down a path to sacrificing these core things that enable us to survive. Fed on a diet of mass produced, mass communicated, we have be taken down a path to dependency and dangerously fragility. What do we as humans do when, deskilled and lacking the knowledge to do basic things, we find ourselves without these things provided to us or provided to us at a price we cannot afford. What do we do with reading, when the electricity goes and our e-readers no longer charge and we cannot send a tweet or text to a friend and do not have the ability to construct on paper a letter which we can then send to someone? What do we do when we can no longer read handwriting?
Now, at this point I could spin some conspiracy theory about the ruling masses wanting to dumb us all down, make their fortunes doing it and ensure they keep their status in this world. Maybe that is even true. What a genius position to be in, to slowly feed the masses what they want or make them think they want it, under the illusion of having more. More possibility, more potential, more convenience, more life, when instead, slowly, ever so slowly this is taken away from them and through it dependency is created. If this is true then that is brilliant. However, I suspect it is not that clever.
Most of what I am saying, of course, currently applies to the Western World only. To the subsistence farmer in parts of the globe that we call the 3rd world the idea of not knowing how to grow your own food would be absurd. Yet, even here, slowly, ever so slowly, the west makes its presence felt. Moves by the likes of Monsanto to patent crops, and produce plants, which have no seeds and so cannot be harvested to grow the next years produce reek of the most evil tenants of capitalism.
So what has all this got to do with letter writing? Well, at once nothing and everything. It’s a long bow to draw to say that the decline in the art of the written word and in particular the letter is at all linked to capitalism and the moves to increase dependency. Yet, I do maintain that it is all part of loss and this loss fits neatly in the loss of other basic skills that lie at the heart of what it is to be human and once aware, we should not lie idly and watch it drift away.
Much as there is a growing movement, to grow your own food, bring back heritage crops, brew, bake, and just generally make. There is a movement to bring back the art of writing and letter writing in particular. This is part of that.
So, if any of this resonates with you or even if you disagree with it all and want to debate it through the written word. Why not consider joining us on this ride. Check out the Letter Society (https://www.facebook.com/Lettersociety/, consider becoming a part of it and put pen to paper. Write your thoughts down in a letter and share it with us.