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Guest Opinion

You cannot reread a phone call

Philipsburg Mail of Philipsburg, Montana

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My pile of beans

There's something about letters.

Not form letters or bank statements or letters that are addressed to a thousand different people talking of a special on purchasing cable television, but personal letters. The ones I speak of are letters that make use of the United States Postal Service as a means of communication between two people.

The other day I went to check my Post Office box and found two letters. One was from my mother and the other from neighbors that I used to live next door to in college. For some reason, receiving two personal letters was extremely exciting for me.

While my family writes me and I write back fairly frequently, the other came as a bit of a surprise. In fact, in recent history it is the only personal letter I have received from someone not related to me.

I should say that I suppose it was both a surprise and yet not a surprise as I had written them first, upholding the promise I had faltered in fulfilling since I made it over two years ago. They were not the only people I had written to try to keep in touch with, however they were the only ones that actually responded in the same form.

Although I use technology daily in my employment here in the newspaper, I have drawn myself away from it in my personal life. Back in college and afterwards I indulged in any means I could instead of writing. I would e-mail, call on my cell phone, instant message, or communicate through Facebook or Myspace. Skype wasn't yet popular or perhaps even around at the time or I may have done that too.

Technology such as cell phones and e-mail has probably helped streamline businesses and organizations, providing fast and mostly reliable service. However is that what we want in our personal lives with friends and family? Are we only to be quick and efficient with nary a thought to the content?

Slowly it has dawned upon me that communicating like that takes a lot of personal touch out of the process. In fact, it becomes too easy and someone hardly even thinks of what they're saying while walking, driving, or doing whatever and talking on a cell phone. Where is the personal touch of humanity in a virtual world of Instant Messaging or Facebook? How quick and easy is it to type out an e-mail and hit send rather than actually write out a letter or card and go to the Post Office, purchase a stamp, and send it.

Perhaps to some the task of writing a letter seems daunting. When I started trying it I found myself often at a writer's block, not knowing what to say or why they would care too much about the day-to-day life. It made me think of who I was writing a letter to, why I wanted to keep in touch with them, and moreover what I should say. Agonizing? Yes. Many sheets of paper spoiled on drafts? Yes. Yet in the end a letter came out and it had to it the polishing of a work rewritten many times over until the author is satisfied with it.

I have dropped out of Facebook, Myspace, and rarely turn my cell phone on except to make a telephone call and like to think that I am moving back to the old tradition of letter writing as a form of communication. I have written to people I used to know in high school or college although a letter in response has only occurred once. However there is one more point to letter writing that I have touched upon earlier - receiving one. With the exception of ordered items or magazine and newspaper subscriptions, the mail seems to have become only a torrent of useless fliers and advertisements as well as bills and bank statements. To find something different in the form of a personal letter must be for many an oasis of humanity and connection to someone in a sea of monotony. Even though I have written letters to old friends without response, I hope that my letter has served the purpose of lifting them from their daily chore of getting the mail.

In a radio interview I listened to years ago comedian Tracy Morgan said that people have to read a letter. He said that people can easily delete an e-mail or not answer a phone call, but receiving a letter calls to them and they are compelled to read it. I believe that.

Copyright 2010 Philipsburg Mail, Philipsburg, Montana. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

© 2011 Philipsburg Mail Philipsburg, Montana. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from DAS.

Original Publication Date: September 16, 2010

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