Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The letter: an abstract gift of time

In one of my favorite bits of geekery, I often read the online forums of The Fountain Pen Network (FPN). I've never directly quoted a post there on my blog before, but I just read a marvelous post in the thread "Who do you write to?" by a new user with the charming appelation Epistler, and I found it such a fine summary of the value of writing a letter (instead of posting on Facebook, per se) that I was moved to share it:

There have been times when I was about to post a link or a comment to a friend's Facebook wall, and I decided to email instead—to emphasize that this communication was a gift to them, not a performance for the world; and then beyond that sometimes I have thought "No. That's still not a clear enough emphasis that this is for you." And it doesn't have to be really personal stuff. It could just be pointing out an author or an article or such of interest.

It just feels like a more directed, caring, generous, mindful, focused, gift-giving act to write to someone in post rather than to just post a link on their FB wall. And there are many dimensions to this: the time cost, the stationery cost, the postage cost, the extra time that writing with a pen takes, the better thought-out product that usually results, the individual expressions involved in paper/pen/ink/stamp choice (saying things perhaps about the writer, perhaps about the writer's perception of the receiver, perhaps about the writer's perception of his or her relationship with the receiver) and in the uniqueness of handwriting, the giving of a physical object that was once yours and was made with your own hands for a specific intended—much as if you had knitted them a sweater, the opportunity for the receiver to have and to keep a physical reminder of being thought of and cared about which has, among its significances, the role of being an enduring manifestation of the otherwise evanescent, abstract gift of time—the time taken to craft the letter.

Epistler, I couldn't have said it better - or even as well. Bravo!