Meaningful Communication

I wrote, right here, about a month back, about a letter-writing project I was, again, launching. A few years ago, a brave group of souls undertook a commitment to communicate with total strangers by handwritten letter.

The response to a new writing project, this time, was favourable, but in the process I received a nasty email, another message telling me this has been done before, and a comment from an editor indicating the project seemed too vague, as if it had no purpose.

The reaction surprised me — the nasty email, in particular —  both on the negative and the positive side. More than a handful of people responded, immediately, to the initiative. Some of the respondents were actually people who participated in the last soultalk project.

Then something came up, about the same time, that would take my interest away, and I bailed on the project (something totally unlike me) for the time being. It got me thinking about why I thought the project was, or would be, interesting. Further, it got me thinking more on why I enjoy communicating with others, at times only by traditional letter.

That week (it might have even been that day), I heard a radio interview with former Talking Head David Byrne and his latest project, an online magazine called Reasons To Be Cheerful. In the interview, and after reading (and subscribing) to the magazine, my reason for initiating the letters project became quite clear: personal correspondence is a reason to be cheerful.

Quite simply, letters have a purpose, and receiving a letter from afar brings me great joy.

Communication in this digital age is, or can be, quick and easy. You simply have to pick up your mobile device and you can read (on so many levels) about who is doing what and how they are doing it, or how they are coping with some of the stuff we all face daily. You can reply, quickly and easily, by tapping out a swift response, or offering an emoticon or just clicking on the like option, before moving on to someone else’s story.

It is a connection, yes, but it is not total communication. It is not the response you get from a letter that arrives in your mailbox unannounced. There is a certain level of surprise when you discover something personal amidst the bills, notices and advertising junk mail. A letter from someone will usually bring a smile to your face.

We can, and many of us do, engage in social media groups. We can join any, or many, conversations in online discussion forums. We can initiate a conversation just as easily by sending an email to a specific person, or posting on your wall. You can then respond to comments and further discussion, or communication.

Letter writing can take this process deeper, and further, I believe.

You write differently when you take a pencil or pen and allow it to travel freely across the page. While longhand communication is more time-consuming, there is documented evidence that the process is beneficial to your physical and mental being. There is a greater connection, through the handwriting instrument, between your thoughts and mind and, ultimately, to the intended recipient of the letter.

I whole-heartedly believe, and practice, this with some regularity right now. I have several friends across the globe I correspond with. As well, my daughter and I write to each other often. Part of it is this casual form of stamp collecting I began decades ago. Part of it is keeping touch, perhaps expanding on previous conversations, or just letting each other know what play or movie we just saw, or what music has lately caught our interest.

Whether I am writing to family or friends, the topics of the letters are similar. We talk about life. We also share difficulties, or celebrations, in our working lives.

The purpose is to maintain a meaningful connection with a worthwhile person. It’s part of the human experience, and part of it is getting off the grid, so to speak, and taking the time to write.

It is all about time.

It does take time to both sit and write, and also to wait for a response or reply. It is humane. It is not rushed. It is civil at a time when we know social media can be anything but.

Longhand communication is more personal, dare I say intimate. Psychologists and therapists have, for years, encouraged journaling, by hand, as a means of getting in touch with feelings. Emotion-based writing, daily, has been proven to lead to noticeable mental and physical health benefits. Letter writing furthers your journaling practice.

Writing by hand demands more of your fine motor skills. Your brain functions on a different level, and while writing (or reading) a letter, your memory and imagination are put to work. You visualize what is on the page before you, in a more personal way than you would by reading a book, or newspaper. You are engaged.

It is more personal. What you write is a first person account of the life you are living. Like keeping a journal, you relate personally to current and past events. By communicating events, thoughts, and feelings to the recipient of the letter you are expressing yourself in ways you simply can’t do any other way.

It can be mind altering, and it can be mood altering. Think about it, who doesn’t like getting a letter in the mail? When was the last time you got one?

It is, for me, a reason to be cheerful.

If you would like to become involved with a project that will further your communication skills, share your human experience and, perhaps, make this world a little smaller send an email  soultalk@mythsandmarginalia.com  and I will forward details.

What you write about is up to you. You can share what you are comfortable with, with courtesy, with commitment.

I believe you will find a reason to be cheerful.

© 2019 j.g. lewis

Reality Of Small Screen Drama

While years and actions will ultimately determine the length of footnote allowed Donald Trump in the annals of history, his mark on pop culture is becoming quite obvious.

Contrary to punitive, ultra-conservative and pervasively power-hungry platforms, the 45th president of the United States is now inspiring liberal, meaningful television story lines. At least two dramas on network television more than slightly reference the shortcomings and undoing of the former (self-proclaimed) reality television icon.

Most obvious was the title change of Madam Secretary to Madam President during the show’s season premiere. The theme of collusion, corruption, and cyber meddling of foreign countries provided the punch required to set the course for the upcoming season as the first fictional female U.S. president sets out on her journey.

Television has a history of solid Whitehouse-based episodic dramas. Madam Secretary has already had a decent run and, no doubt, we will watch further not-so-subtle references to the current real-life administration for the remainder of the season. Trump’s ways and days are full of mass media story lines waiting to be retold.

But, it was the new courtroom drama All Rise that caught my eye with an episode heavily based on the ‘send them home’ cries you often hear reported at Trump rallies as he attempts to cap (in fact, eliminate) immigration into his country. It may well be the watermark of his presidency, with or without his promised walls.

The courtroom case we end up following in episode two of All Rise – in addition to the show’s sub-text along the racial divide – stems from charges levied against a driver who attempts to run down a woman with his pickup truck after shouting “go back where you came from”.

Immigration, on this continent and globally, is a hot topic and is not particularly new to television; Madam Secretary last season focused its camera on the children being held captive, away from their parents, at the Mexican border in an accurate moment of art reflecting life.

What I find refreshing is the tone of the writing in both shows. I believe we are starting to hear some true empathy behind the stories, and we are seeing believable characters fighting injustice, human rights, and freedom of the press as it continues to be called into question by a president who spends more of his time bragging and tweeting insults than taking care of the nation’s business.

I don’t watch a lot of television. In fact, I now only stream and with not a lot of regularity, but every once on a while a show captures my imagination.

Edward R. Murrow, more than half a century ago, labeled television as the “opiate of the people”, a criticism over poor programming and the improper use of what, then, was considered progressive technology. In the decades that followed, channels were added and programs improved, and while a swath of pap still exists, there is a show or two that seems to raise the bar. In doing so, it raises our consciousness of what is happening on this planet.

It does not, however, shield us from the self-serving and sufficiently insidious posturing of an amoral politician that continues to take up a large percentage of the never-ending news cycle. Perhaps the subjects and story lines addressed on small screen dramas may help nudge us towards a kinder gentle nation.

In an era where the reality of what’s going on has out-trumped reality television, I can only hope entertainment with a mindful message and sympathetic soul can get us thinking about what really matters.

Versions Of The Truth

Even my name will carry forward
to years I will not touch. This certainty remains
as truthful as it is obvious. We exist
in this fractured reality.

We all will die.
Admit that and you will move
more freely in this world.

Journey or adventure.

Most of us, week to week, are not aware
of a destination or even our path.
This has been my familiarity.

No other person’s experience can be
compared to your own experience.
We know various versions of the truth.

Time is tactile.

My hand will cup a breast only while my lips
have a taste to be quenched by lust,
or temptation.

Others will touch, or wish not to be touched.

Morals coat any decision made.
Experience tells us so.

Any human connection is hard; even harder
is loss of connection. Emotions are a commodity
shared with few, expressed by even less of us.

Trust.

The mind is never vacant, but a room muddled
by darkness. This space hosts a scent
I will remember after I
am left for dead.

We will all die; most of us alone.
Admit that, and you will move
more freely through this life.

© 2019 j.g. lewis