I am a technology freak. I have an excess of electronic paraphernalia. I thought these things consumed too much of my life until we took in a young adult roomer. Between the iPhone and the iPad and Netflix, we barely saw her. She would come home, disappear in her room and barely emerge to eat or drink. And then it happened. Our roomer ran out of money and failed to pay her cell phone bill. Her service was cut off. No phone calls, no text, no normal communication with her friends and family. She fell into a funk.
And now I digress. I have been reading the voluminous correspondence of C. S. Lewis, some of it mundane, much of it personal, theological, interesting. At the same time, the former owner of my vacation rental Wren Eagle Retreat sent me a letter about tree falling on a neighbor’s vehicles and his own health problems. I had emailed him once with a question about the property but he never responded. Now we are carrying on correspondence as our letters pass back and forth once a week or so. Other people have received letter from me now that C. S. Lewis has shown me what a letter may be: an insight into daily life (when he wrote to his brother away at war), or a sharing of knowledge and thought. Although at times I feel like an intruder to his privacy, nonetheless I have made myself his recipient and taken his advice about novels to read and considered ideas he, himself, was pondering.
Now my technological gadgets seem more a distraction than a delight. I’ll continue reading on my Kindle, but there’s something about the hand pressing into a pen and moving that pen across blank paper to form symbols with meaning. I can underline, press harder, and write larger all with more ease than doing it on a computer. And if I misspell, so what? My recipient will understand.
And our roomer who no longer has access to phone and text? She may just have to learn to write letters, address envelopes, and stick on stamps. Would that be so bad? Would it be so bad for her to write with thought rather than dashing off a text message? Would it hurt her to have to live with the tension of waiting for a response for days or a week or not at all? I have begun turning off my cell phone when I go to bed and not answering it when I am driving or involved in something that takes my entire concentration. What do you think? Might it be time to jettison the short text messages, tweets, and Facebook posts. To restrict ones own phone time—remembering that once there was no phone access to your life when you were not at home or in your office or at a public phone booth. What have we lost? What should be regained?
Attribution for picture of letter: