by Christina Carson
I was sitting on our bed, fountain pen in hand. Nightshade was the ink color in it which harmonized with the soft gray of that rainy Sunday morning. In my lap was a little writing table and on it several sheets of Japanese paper as smooth as silk. I was about to write a letter to a friend of old, writing in the old way, ink pen on paper. But what was actually pending was a remarkable experience, an insight couched in the words of the dated saw: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
You see, as I started to write that letter, almost immediately I felt what happens when we communicate with one another through this specific form of writing – fountain pen and paper. I sat amazed at what I felt as the words rolled out on the page. They didn’t create the feeling of being constrained like the short jags we exchange via social media. They didn't instill a sense of being rushed or behind, or a need to get through quickly like digital communication elicits. They did not feel like someone fulfilling a duty or checking off a list of To Do’s. Instead the words were pulling up from the depths of me something so poignant that I had no desire to zero in on the mundane or the trivial. When I’d finished, what I mailed off was a small part of me, given to my dear friend. She will, I’m sure, read and reread it, as handwritten letters always invite. And we will reclaim a relationship I’d not formerly handled implicit with the love and gratefulness I have always felt for her.
I realized more powerfully than I was able to ignore that we humans are making a very big mistake to allow technology to own us as it does: to arrange our priorities, to determine the rhythm of our lives, to race us past what truly matters to get to yet another empty distraction. To live a life dictated by digital parameters is causing us to lose values, attitudes and activities that help us to remember the sense of humanity that falls so naturally out of the words—human being.
I don’t pretend to know the why of this; I just know it is so. The power of words to convey wisdom, peace and love do not come out of my digital reader. They do however, come off the inked page of a book. A photographer friend told me the other day she is going to add black-and-white photography to her artistic endeavors because she cannot feel the depth of art she seeks through digital photography—too many mechanical pieces between her and the work, encouraging the belief that a single moment isn't worth your all. That you can clean it up later.
Here is one possible explanation. All life is about connection, because the crowning experience of life is realizing the absolute interconnectedness of All Things and living from that realization. Such an experience requires of us that we slow down, quiet down, and engage with an activity in a manner which actually draws out of us something new, something more than we’d known before about ourselves or life.
For this to happen, we must be challenged. When life no longer requires us to develop ourselves, because, in the name of progress, it makes redundant the very skills that engaged us with that task, we wither on the vine of boredom. For example, if I don’t have to know words and spelling; if I don’t have to take responsibility for writing as the art form it is; if I am not involved in the stages of addressing, stamping and closing an envelope that brings the entire experience to a satisfying end, then what am I left with for my efforts? How empty am I going to allow my life to become? What we seem to have convinced ourselves of in the froth and speed and flashing lights of the digital world is that quantity has surpassed quality as a means of determining richness of life.
Oh and by the way, here’s one more item I found in the bathwater. When was the last time you coffee lovers had a cup of perked coffee. You know, that kind that fills the entire house with that delicious aroma and treats you to how fine coffee can truly taste. When did we let that one go? And why?
Want to see what it feels like for you to own your life again? Start with a fountain pen and paper and write a letter to someone, anyone, even me. Then notice the tenor of your anticipation as you wait for the reply.
Novels of Substance and Story