I got a pingback on yesterday’s post and it got me to thinking about another item between family members and friends.
Dreams flow well in letters, don’t they? I think we’ve lost part of that connection, especially because of the internet. No anticipation flutters our heartbeat when we think of getting an email. That sensation came when we waited for real mail, on paper, with ink covering the page like so much ivy growing out toward us, carrying dreams, images, and speculations. Secrets huddled within the lines of word leaves, providing us with tiny thrills and mysteries.
These were the reasons we wrote to cousins, best friends on vacation, or pen pals. Most of that is gone now with the arrival of internet. That loss is what I regret, for now, instead of picking up fountain pen and paper, I reach for a keyboard, and the thought and care that would had gone into writing to a love one has dissipated into a mist of remembered pleasure.
Can you imagine how much of our world’s history, knowledge, and philosophy would not exist if it weren’t for written letters?
Much of the ancient world would be a mystery to use without those letters between philosophers and historians. The treatise is a simple extension of the letter. Those documents formed the very foundation of what we know as literature, scientific notation, constitutions, etc.
Family members wrote to one another, knowing that they might never get a response from the one who’d moved so far away, or the one who’d stayed in the old neighborhood/country. Hope clung to fragile ink-covered pages, written with love, despair, anticipation, disgust, and all the rest of human emotion. Did those pioneers recognize the tradition they followed from a thousand years before?
As we move further into a new world that disdains the tangible personal letter, we need to look back for a moment to imprint in our minds what we’re giving up. Physical remains of letters have survived for thousands of years. One badly timed lightning strike can wipe out years of work or correspondence.
Mother Nature doesn’t care about electrons that floated around or are stored in the ether around us. A scrambled atmosphere can do as much damage in the long run as a flood. All communication is vulnerable to disaster, computer driven no less than the Pony Express.
At the end of the day, though, we choose to use our time to communicate with dreams, aspirations, and secrets from one person to another, or merely to open a channel and punch keys.
The individual decides. Quick and dirty or thoughtful and fulsome? When is the last time letters arrived in your mailbox?
It’s been said that, “When you look at your life, the greatest happiness [es] are family happiness [es].” One of the questions, for me, is whether that statement is true or not.
I’ve had many happy moments in my life with and without family members in attendance. I tend to focus on how one quantifies happiness.
Does extreme happiness always have to be accompanied by tears, for instance? Or, is such a deep emotion as true happiness so overpowering that expression of any kind is beyond the ability of the one experiencing it?
What about a lack of happiness? I’ve seen occasions when great sorrow, not happiness, was what took over when family arrived. Where does a person draw the line of family involvement in one’s personal happiness?
Here’s another example of relevant questions. How many degrees of happiness does a person feel and does everyone feel the same degrees of that emotion and label them the same way? I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer to either of these questions simply because each person’s emotional thermometer registers feelings differently based on personal experience.
When you realize how genuinely moved a person is to meet you, does that evoke great happiness, sweet satisfaction, or deep humility coupled with gratitude. If humility, does that constitute a portion of happiness? If you feel satisfaction only, does that mean that conceit has crept into your thermometer?
You see how complicated emotional definitions and signals are? What if you feel nothing at all except seeming boredom when someone exhibits excitement at shaking your hand and talking with you face-to-face? After all, this could be a cousin that you’ve never met before.
Does your lack of emotion mean that you really don’t want to know any more family, that you’re too important to worry about those on the fringe of the family, or that you’re just a jerk?
Or, could it mean, as it does with me, that caution and trust issues rule your actions and responses during first meetings?
Circumstances dictate our responses to events in our lives. The exact experience also contributes to those responses, as well as the circumstances immediately preceding an event.
For instance, many years ago, when I was teaching in an elementary school, I’d gone outside during recess. I needed some quiet time without children’s voices in my ears or designs on my next thought. I spent my ten minutes breathing in the scent of blooming forsythia and tulips in nearby private yards, listening to birds announcing their romantic intentions, and generally decompressing. The afternoon sun warmed my face and hands, clean air wafted past my nose, and a sense of rightness filled me.
On my way back to the classroom, a curious sensation flooded my body. I stopped walking. I closed my eyes and felt my whole body fill with blinding light from the inside. I could see it, behind my eyelids, flooding through me. Such a wave of pure joy washed over me that there were no words, no other sensations, no sound. All else in the world fell away, leaving me held within this personal lightshow.
It ended, and I nearly cried. I felt in that instant the most amazing happiness. I’ve yearned for another taste of it ever since. I wait for the day I can feel that sensation, that joy, again. Where it came from, or why it came, I have no idea. I don’t care.
I only know that that one blazing event taught me more about joy than a lifetime of other experiences. Nothing can compare to it. I wish everyone could have their own instant of pure joy that they can aspire to feel it again.