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Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: The Lost Glory of Handwritten Letters


As I sit here on this chilly ‍Schenectady evening, a well-worn⁢ fountain pen⁣ resting idle in my hand, I ‌can’t help but feel a gnawing heaviness​ in the pit of my stomach,‍ a ⁣longing deep in my heart. Sighing, ⁢I ⁤fumble with​ a roll⁢ of stamps ⁢lying forgotten on the‌ desk—tiny adhesive obituaries for a tradition now endangered. Before you dismiss me as just another old codger caught up in nostalgia, wallowing in ‘the good ⁤old days’, I urge you to pause. Maybe ⁢the past isn’t as perfect as the​ rose-tinted glasses of our memory tend to portray, and surely,‍ technological advancements⁤ are not all demons in a brave new world. Yet, the sure, graceful strokes ⁤of ink‌ on paper, the thrill of receiving ⁢a handwritten letter—a visceral experience now fading⁣ into the annals of history—still holds ⁢its own undeniable charm.

There was ⁤an art to writing ⁣letters back then, shaped by a meticulous, almost ritualistic process of selecting ‍stationery, pulling out your favorite pen, and finally pouring your thoughts onto⁢ paper—literal extensions of your innermost self. ⁤The strokes of an⁣ ‘I’ declared more about the writer’s temperament​ than many wish to ⁣acknowledge. It‍ was personal, vulnerable even, ⁣to let your​ handwriting—and by extension, your emotions, your very being—be scrutinized, ​judged by the recipient.

Do you ​remember the awe when you looked out to⁤ find a pile of letters by your doorstep? ‌The ⁣sense of hushed anticipation as you sifted through the pile, recognizing familiar scrawl? You⁣ might ‍have smiled at the misaligned letters, a⁢ playful testament‌ to your niece’s first‍ steps into the world of literature. Or you might’ve twirled your mustache ⁢in a futile attempt to ⁣hide a grin ‍as you beheld your⁤ beloved’s loopy, ecstatic handwriting on a thin strip of parchment. Today’s sterile inbox could ‌hardly replicate that‌ emotion, that⁤ liveliness.

Oh,​ the‌ younger generations sneer at the whimsical ⁣nostalgia of a bygone ‌era. For them, the future‍ lies in⁢ the crisp, machine-generated Times New Roman of an email body, an emoji a suitable ⁣replacement for the writer’s distinct personality. They‌ boast of instantaneous communication, but in ⁣the bid to conquer space, they haven’t realized that they have ‌conceded to time. Their words are​ all too often ‍hastily typed on screens, devoid of sincerity, of thoughtfulness.

While I bemoan the ⁢lost era​ of ‍handwritten letters, ⁣my lament isn’t just about antiquated sentimentalism. It’s about leaving behind a tangible legacy, a historical record. Each weather-beaten letter tucked away in an attic box or ​a rusty ‌old trunk was a time capsule. Many centuries from now, historians seeking insight ⁤into​ everyday lives in the era ⁣of Instagram and TikTok will find⁤ little to trace. There are no feelings to be read ‌in the pixels of the screen, no stories to ⁢glean from the scrolling ⁤lines of electronic text.

Consider the letter written by a brave young soldier from the pacific during World War II to his mother back in Schenectady.‍ Or the ⁢political​ treatises exchanged between the Founding Fathers.​ Had these sentiments been expressed over Instant Messaging, ⁢the historical treasure trove⁤ would have been nonexistent.

Back when I was a ⁣spry lad of twenty​ visiting my old, reclusive Grandpa, I chanced upon a dusty trove​ of his⁢ own⁢ letters, correspondence with my Grandma ⁣during their courtship‍ days. Reading them ​was⁣ like listening in on ⁢a conversation between two ‍lovers, ‍cherishing their words filled with raw, palpable ⁤longing separated by distance and the harsh realities ⁤of war.

In their quest for efficiency and immediacy, people are ‍forgetting the value⁣ and ​beauty of anticipation. There was a particular‌ excitement in waiting for a⁣ beloved’s letter—a sort of‍ slow-burning joy that cultivated patience, decency. It kept relationships ethereal, respectful.‌ This age of frantic ​texts and emojis is indeed making us lose touch with our emotional and reflective​ selves.

Indubitably, seeking a‌ full-shift return to⁢ the age ‌of ‍letters is impractical, even ⁤ludicrous, ‍in this digital era, but perhaps we could strive for⁣ a healthier ⁤balance—an integration of the⁣ old and the ⁤new. We could remember ⁤to take out a ⁣few moments from our hectic lives,‍ to ‌sit down and pen a note, a letter—just occasionally. Be it ​for an old⁣ friend who’d appreciate a heartfelt missive​ or for future generations that could catch a‌ realistic glimpse ‍of our existence, lives, and relationships⁣ in the 21st century. Let’s hold⁤ onto​ the lost ‌glory of handwritten letters, if‍ not for us, ‍then ​for‍ our‍ legacy; the⁣ human‌ touch woven in the⁢ thread of history.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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