Write it, seal it, stamp it and mail it

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Still, I love email, in its place. But I do deplore its abuse and the fact that it has replaced real writing. Mostly I lament the passing of the letter. I know, I know, people worried that the postcard and the telegraph would spell the end of letter-writing, but I have a feeling that email is really obliterating the desire, the ability and need to write letters.

The loss is multi-leveled. First, there is the process of letter-writing, which requires organized thinking, careful composition and a certain facility with the language. Like the body’s appendix, these abilities are becoming vestigial.

Next, there is the time factor. Letters take time to compose, time to travel and time to read. There is ample room to contemplate what one wants to say and how. Therefore, communication tends to be more reasoned and moderate. Emails are instant and require very little preparation. Hit the send button and they’re gone.

Which brings me to perhaps the most import reason to preserve letter writing: People keep letters. They become part of history, and a commentary on one’s individual place in time and the world. I have letters from my husband written to me when he and I were in high school, and then when he was in college in Philly and I was in New York. I have letters my kids wrote from camp and other, random postings from my husband’s mother, who died 30 years ago. I have letters she kept from friends of hers, letters from her sister who served in World War II. If email had existed then, I never would have known that Aunt Ada drove a jeep for General Eisenhower or that he sent silk parachutes home to be fashioned into ladies’ dainties for … whomever.

I also have a bag of letters my high school buddies and I wrote to one another during our freshman year, full of the thrills of new freedom and the angst of wanting to do well and fearing we would not, and the Vietnam draft, and who was in love with whom.

These missives are precious and priceless. A hundred years from now, people can read them and find a window to a remote time and place. People keep letters. That’s one of the most compelling reasons to write them. What would we know of history or world leaders or daily life in another era if we didn’t have letters?
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