Ex Die in Diem



Today I started to write a letter: a real, ink-and-paper piece of correspondence that I intend to submit to the mercies of the postal system. I really like getting letters sent by real humans. There’s something about the physicality of it that elevates a letter beyond any other form of distant communication for me: the choice of paper, of stamp, the style and finesse of handwriting, all add to the text of the letter to produce an artefact of significance.

There is a greater permanence afforded to the paper and its envelope than is found with electronic communications, a permanence that not only allows future generations to look back at our correspondence, but that also bestows a sense of gravitas to the communique. What is written and sent cannot be unwritten: the page retains the author’s thoughts and intent in a way that does not easily change.

This permanence is important because it allows us to crystallise our ideas and view them ourselves as well as sharing them with others. Thoughts on a page look different to thoughts in one’s mind, a fact exploited by the technique of dispelling anger or frustration by writing a letter with no intention of sending it. The very act of inscribing our state of mind on the page allows us to see what it is that we are currently living through, providing a lens and mirror with which to focus on the important and exclude the rest.

The next time you get a handwritten letter through the post, or even delivered by hand, it is worth taking into account the thought and process that went into it: insofar as it is possible, the person who wrote it sought to share something of themselves with you, inviting you on their journey of self-discovery, self-clarification. The result of that voyage is what you hold in your hand: treat it well.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with gold and silver threads,
The blue, and the dim, and the dark cloths,
Of night, and of light, and of half-light,
I would lay these cloths under your feet.

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I lay my dreams under your feet.
Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams.

This is from the