20 February 2012

Write a Letter

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis is one of those books (or volume of books) I plod through; I read several things at a time, but this work is one I put down for long periods, pick up now and then, and read slowly.

Several weeks ago I came across this:
It is the immemorial privilege of letter-writers to commit to paper things they would not say: to write in a more grandiose manner than that in which they speak: and to enlarge upon feelings which would be passed by unnoticed in conversation.
Lewis was a teenager when he wrote that. A genius for sure.

I am often convicted when I read his work, but this time Lewis shines a light on something rather simple: letter writing. The volumes mentioned above total over 3,000 pages, I doubt I've even written 20. Times have changed, but time has not; I can't help but think the writers of long ago, and not so long ago, used their time more wisely.
Yet more important is the act of corresponding slowly and carefully. It has always been a privilege to writers "to commit to paper things they would not say," not only to letter-writers; the advantage of thinking through what one will say, and then seeing it all out on paper before the recipient does, is a large one.

Too often I have slapped together an email to keep in touch with a friend without much thought going into it. Sometimes I just text.

Do you remember what it's like to get a long letter from a friend? I hope there isn't anyone reading this who hasn't received one. A friend of mine used to practice letter-writing with me, and we would certainly discuss things likely left unsaid in person. What was more delightful was the thought of my friend sitting down and using his time to write me. And even though we would both apologize for a long letter, I know we both wished there was always more.

Write one this week.

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Most of the letters I receive now are from family only. You're right, it's a dying form.

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