“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
(Letter 16, 1657)”
Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters
These past weeks as I considered language as a conduit for communication, I came across some old letters, cards and notes that I have kept over the years. I found the first birthday card that I received that mentioned age. As I looked at all of the signatories I recalled my surprise that others had identified my transition before me. How had thirty come so soon?
Letters are more than a record of a long distance conversation. As John Donne once wrote, “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” Whether they are scribbles of a pen or the faded print of a manual typewriter, letters are the remnants of relationships between lovers, parents and children, sisters, brothers, friends, or colleagues. They bear witness to a moment of historical significance between the sender and receiver. Letters are the stories of people’s lives, of their hopes and dreams, of their achievements and failures. Most of all, they are the narratives of humanity. Letters season our history and biographies with vibrant detail, allowing us to experience what will never be again. Voices long silent come alive as if the writers themselves were sitting across the table or in the opposite armchair.
In the coming days, I want to explore the language of letters within the context of words and actions.
“Because thou writest me often, I thank thee … Never do I receive a letter from thee, but immediately we are together.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters from a Stoic