|Diarists and Correspondents
||[Jul. 28th, 2006|12:17 am]
I've never been one for keeping a diary, or for writing letters. I kept a diary once, when I was ten, and it fell into my brother's hands and was kept from me in an attempt to taunt and tease. In reality, there was little in it that was private. To my brother, it was merely the idea that he had some sort of secret of mine that made it valuable. I was eventually able to retrieve it from his secret hiding place, but never wrote in it again. Many years later I did come across it, and was reminded of the incident, but I don't know where it is now.
Neither have I been so good at writing letters. I remember when I was eight, and my best friends Jeffrey and Debbie moved away, and we were supposed to write letters to each other. Oh yes I did once to each, and Jeffrey never responded, and Debbie did, late but in earnest. I just never knew how to finish the letter I wrote to her - I felt I had to match it, if not surpass it. I never even finished. I still have the picture she sent me, of her in her bicentennial get-up. I feel bad for not having been able to keep up the correspondence. But I also resent my parents, and my friends' parents, for not having had enough concern for their children's relationships. My life changed after eight, from a world that I felt was fundamentally good to a belief in a world that was fundamentally hostile to me.
Yet, now, I see all the journals that have sprung up on the Internet in the past eight years or so. And I feel an outsider. Why? Because I don't know the audience. I don't know what to keep secret and what to reveal. I have no idea of what I can consider common knowledge and expressions and what is arcane and personal. What if I offend? What if I alienate? What if I reveal secrets of others (it is bad enough that I might reveal my own).
I think of the past, when the great thinkers of the world (and some not so great) had a specific way of writing letters. When paper and postage were expensive, when telephones and e-mail didn't exist, there was a real style and personal craft towards writing a letter. Perhaps this has all been lost. Perhaps, through the efficiency of modern equipment, the written word has become so cheap that we spend little time crafting our words, and less in the formation of letters on paper. This goes for both diaries and correspondence. I know my handwriting has gone to hell, when it was, at one time, halfway decent. There has been no pressure to keep it good, and in fact the advent of the computer has made it difficult to keep my handwriting even legible.
Who out there, among my dear friends, would appreciate a hand-written letter? Perhaps if I knew I was crafting an artifact that would be kept for a lifetime or longer, perhaps to be studied in the distant future for clues about me, my correspondent, or the times we live in, I might be more attentive to detail. But with so much information in the world today, my scribblings get lost. Perhaps as these words will. But there is something to be said for it: If no one but me sees them, at least I have an audience of one, and that is myself. Somehow, by committing words to paper or keys to an email, ideas become, somehow, more real. But they are also distorted. When the exact phrasing or word doesn't exists, or the truth of the thought is too much to commit in an exact and explicit manner, for that moment, the true nature of the thought can be forever buried in the minutiae that surround it.
Perhaps I need to read more of Samuel Pepys to get a good grasp on diarism (is that a word?), though I do not know who I would study for correspondence.