Friday, August 12, 2011

The Lost Art of Love Letters

Technology is changing our world at lightning speed. According to neuro-biologists, it is even rewiring our brains. Shortening our attention spans. Quickening the pace of firing neurons. Let's face it. The paradigm has shifted, and for better or worse, things are never going to be the same. But along with progress comes the dying of lovely art forms.

Imagine if Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett met today. Their expansive love bound by 140 Twitter characters. Then again, they'd probably be sexting up a storm. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. But where is the romance? The raw emotion? The baring of souls on the page? Where's that breath-stealing wistfulness that only a love letter can stir?

What about you? What dying art will you miss most? Have you ever written a love letter? Has anyone ever written a love letter to you? (Sadly, for me, the answer is no. My husband is a great guy, but a writer of love letters he is not. Then again, I never have to gas up my own car.) Or will future generations invent something far more romantic than the love letter?


  1. I think today we use too much texting and twittering and email, when a good old phone call on a land line can be like a breath of fresh air. I think the even when talking on a cell phone, reception can not be as good as a land line. I like to hear someones voice now and then especially the neices and nephews. I like to be able to tell if they are feeling good or sad or whatever the mood. A email or a FB message just does not do it for me. I NEED to hear them.. Makes me feel better. I am not saying that need to call me daily or weekly, but now and then. We have all gone through a lot this past few months and the loss of their grandmother who they were all so close too, has had a effect on each of them. They know that I am always here for them and I can't help them if I can't hear them..

  2. I think all things are cyclical. Remember how LPs were declared dead and CDs were king, then MP3s? Now LPs are making a comeback with the "younger generation" who has discovered that vinyl gives voices and instruments a depth rendered mute by electronic form.

    There will always be a nostalgia for things of yesterday. Someday, somewhere along the line, someone will bring back the art of writing letters, the importance of voice-to-voice communication.

    It's like this one office I know. In an era where receptionists have long been replaced by automated voice mail, *this* office insists of having a real, live person both answer that front desk phone AND be a physical presence to greet people who walk in the door. The boss insists on it. Why? Because he thinks it gives their business a personal touch. Because he thinks it makes a good impression. Because he thinks its something their clients and potential clients like and I agree with him.

    Besides, give it one good electrical storm or solar flare that wipes out all cell phone, GPS, or computer reception (which has been all over the news lately) and we'll see what happens.

    It's funny because I've been having this convo with friends and family lately. The world has always wondered how civilization could have lost all the advanced knowledge of ancient civilizations (Egyptians surgical knowledge, the Dark Ages, the idea that Atlantis existed and was so advanced, etc) and look at where we're heading...

    Kids won't be taught cursive writing, they barely write anyway, everything's typed.

    Their writing (via texting) is some weird combo of symbols and letters that a lot of people don't understand.

    Nobody speaks anymore, it's all Facebook, twitter, and emails. The Art of Conversation, Debate, and meaningful exchange is *definitely* on the decline. The day my local newsperson read me TWEETS on the air was the day I knew journalism was in trouble.

    People even theorize now that written books won't exist and everything will become e-whatevers.

    So if electricity fails, if electronics won't work (in the future for whatever reason) people won't know how to communicate. They won't be able to read or write or speak and we're right back to scratching stick figures in the dirt. All that book knowledge will be gone unless you're Michael York and Jenny Agutter and happen to stumble into a ruined book library ala Logan's Run.

    Okay, okay, I know, it's very George Orwell of me, but I can see where it could very easily become a reality "someday."


  3. Oh gosh yes, Julie! I long for real human voices. Those automated things can drive you into rage management classes.


  4. Right, Kathleen. And besides, someone could hack their technology and you might be texting with a stranger.

  5. I received a letter once, back in 1978. I was 18 and he had left for the army. But, I let him slip away. I burned his letter on a cold January night. The eve of my wedding day, three years later. I watched it turn to ash as the smoke swirled around my face. Thinking that it would be the end of it. But it never was.

  6. I don't write too many letters anymore, but I do send a lot of cards with brief notes. I can't remember ever writing or getting a love letter.

    I do agree with Julie - I think things are cyclical.