Instant messaging software and social media have taken over our timelines, stealing our attention with a saturation bombardment of information – seemingly fast and timely communication brings with it an endless void. And I chose to sit down to write a serious letter for no other reason than the desire to reach a real exchange. Thinking, human thinking is not just a movement of the brain, but a physical experience; our fingers hit the keyboard and sometimes halfway through the letter, we know what we really want to say.
Slowly has given me endless delight in waiting for new mail. The letter could have come from the other side of the world entirely and had to wait a full 30+ hours for it to arrive, or it could have come from the same city as me and had to see the truth in just one hour. It makes us cherish our pen pals and every letter – sometimes for months without hearing from them, only to open it one day and find a long letter from an old friend; a classical-era joy that can only ferment into a moving feeling while waiting.
I discussed the former Soviet Union and the Orthodox Church with teachers from Russia, post-colonialism and new age architecture with students and artists from Africa, common history, differences and consensus with friends from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan – I was blessed by friends from all over the world. Lonely and profound as Latin American literature, uplifting as science fiction; reflections from different people have made me truly aware of what internationalism is and what the human spirit is.
Writing letters is a great way to invest our own time, to take other people’s time seriously and ultimately to love humanity.