I launched a call on Twitter, as I wanted to revive the old habit of writing the traditional letters, trying to move away from the purely electronic form of communication. I provided my P.O. Box number, explaining that I was keen to receive a letter written by hand. Needless to say, I promised to write back to all senders, though my handwriting has never been great.
A few days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge number of letters in my post box; personal letters, not the usual lifeless bills and ads that I always find there. I could not wait to get home and open them. I carefully read each one, amazed by the number of people wishing to write to a total stranger. A comment made by one of the senders was particularly poignant. It read: “Another mad person waiting for a letter in his P. O. Box?!”
Unfortunately, none of the letters contained a love poem, as most writers chose to provide a glimpse of their lives, rather than sending me excerpts of their creative writing. Each letter I received was very personal and thus reflected different attitudes, spirits, desires, ambitions, dreams, yearnings and disappointments.
Reading them, I felt a sense of repressed feelings and ideas the writers tried to convey. In almost all the letters, which were describing different things, I got a sense of an almost overwhelming longing for releasing feelings and passions. Most of them reflected the longing for freedom, criticising past realities that represent abuse and oppression.
One of the anonymous senders talked about her childhood, in nine successive letters. She spoke about a small window between her house and a shop through which she used to give her letters to the shop owner, who sent it along with those written by the maids in the neighbourhood.
The shop owner would pass on the replies to her in the same way, so that her father would not find out that she was corresponding with friends from all over the world. She used this “secret agency” system to send all her letters, even though none were love letters.
The same sender mentioned in her recollection of past events that she used to read to her mother the daily words of wisdom and thoughts written on the calendar sheets. Even now, although her mother has passed away, she still reads those “snippets”.
Letter-writing is a well established genre; it faithfully reflects the poetic perceptions of its writer, who is free from any restrictions, as if his/her inner soul is actually writing the words. In the book, Jawahir Al Adab (Gems of
Literature) by Ahmad Al Hashemi, we find different types of letters, some full of love and passion, some attempts at socialising, even letters of blame.
Still, irrespective of their content or intent, all letters were written in creative language, conveyed profound feelings and carried referents and allusions to poetry and rhetoric. Al Hashemi started a letter he wrote to one of his friends with: “My letter to you conveys my eagerness, that you ever felt, as since you departed, you took affability, you took soul…” He then concluded, “No wonder how deep my eagerness to see you, because it has been said, it is of the kindness of a man to ever long for his friends and his homeland.”
One of the writers whose letter I received after my Twitter appeal criticised technology, accusing it of killing our feelings. He said, “Writing emails provides us with a chance to delete and hide our weak points.”
I found his thoughts evident in the original manuscripts of the classic writers. If we take Khalil Gibran as an example, we find that his manuscripts are very hard to read, because they are crowded with changes, deletions and paraphrasing. This speaks of Gibran’s anxious personality which, as someone said on Twitter, “was one of the secrets of his creativity”.
Some senders sent their letters with no date or return address. Although that deprived me of the opportunity to reply, as promised, I found their choice meaningful. Perhaps they wanted to immortalise their letters beyond time and space as memory in the realm of wishes.
In one of her letters, the lady who talked about the calendar enclosed the calendar leaf for December 8, 2011, carrying this quote: “We meet with people all the time, yet, we scarcely, meet with ourselves.” I was thinking of this quote during a 16-hour flight, when I found myself writing on paper, which is not my habit, only to discover how far I was from myself.
How hard it truly is to write our thoughts about ourselves on paper! How hard we find it to express love on paper! How hard it has become to long for others on paper! How hard to wait, to remember, and to cry on paper! Letters bring life to pieces of paper — a life full of joy of the details of those we love. Still, we can bring them to their certain death through our yearning to them.
How much the hand-written letters tell about us! They speak about what we were, what we will be or what we will never become. Hand-written letters give us enough time to meditate and think, and that helps us communicate with ourselves. Just before the plane landed, I had a revelation. I discovered that writing on paper provides us with one of the rare opportunities to bond with ourselves.
One of the senders wrote about her suicide attempts and about her great passion for life after she got her life back. She said that she wanted to write, by hand, about her experience, wanting to share it with whoever received her letter. The greatest letter I received was the one that said: “We write some of our letters to ourselves before anybody else, so we do not care whether we stick a stamp on them or we just throw them in the first box we come across.”
Wirter by : Yasser Hareb