A Case For Leisure
As I look back on the date of my last post, I was shocked to see that it was nearly a month ago that I last wrote. Where has the time flown to... But as is the situation for all modern day Americans (and maybe others) time doesn't fly, it hyper teleports. With the existence of this hyper active life, my husband has taken to trying something different. He sets aside time with our family a few evenings a week to do something quite counter cultural; we write letters. And not with just any old writing tool, my husband has taken it to the next level and has our family writing with fountain pens. This is truly the art of "slow" as we have to consider each word carefully before making a mark on the page since that mark can not be "back spaced" or "cut".
My husband became very excited about letter writing and fountain pen writing after attending a paper and postcard show with a friend a number of years ago. The regal beauty of the fountain pens and the gentility of the world of pen and ink drew him in instantly. My dear went to the library, studied online, looked at hundreds of You Tube videos to learn more and more about the art he had come to appreciate and now greatly love. There is something to be said for the peaceful feel of the tool, and the sound of the pen's tip scratching the surface of a piece of paper. My husband loves this tactile pleasure and writes work notes, to do lists, quick jots of thoughts, any "need to be put on paper" items, all done with pen and ink. But his all time favorite pleasure for his fountain is the writing of personal letters. In this technology saturated age, my dear is part of the movement to return to the leisure and civility and beauty of the hand written letter.
In one of my husband's many books titled To The Letter, it states:
"Some say the art of letter writing went out with the goose quill. But most ascribe the loss to the modern art of leisure. The theory, sounding somewhat familiar at the beginning of the twenty-first century, ran as follows: we are too busy with work, travel, and the pressures and demands of modern life to sit down for a minute, let alone think and write a letter. Or as Henry Dwight Sedgwick had it at Yale, 'Hurry has been set on a pedestal, and Scurry has been set on a pedestal and the taste for leisure has been snuffed out.' Yet there was still some hope: 'There are, and always will be, convalescents, cripples, confirmed idlers, guests marooned in country houses on Sunday mornings' - and it was to them that we should entrust the future art of letters. Was there anyone else to blame for this death of letter-writing just after the Great War? Yes: schools. Oddly enough, teachers of literature teach almost anything other than the art of letter-writing. Boys and girls from twelve to twenty are set to writing essays, theses, compositions, as if Tom, Dick, and Molly and Polly were going to write essays throughout their lives to their parents, lovers, husbands, wives, children, and old cronies.' The teaching of English, alas, was 'dominated by the grammarians who desire passionately that every boy and girl shall recognize at sight and call by name a "partitive genitive" or an "adverbial clause", and by educational reformers who regard speaking English and writing English as machinery and not an art. Both sets despise the loafer and the art of letter-writing.' "
Another addition in this book was the introduction to an anthology of English Letter Writers, the compiler R. Brimley Johnson also wondered whether letter-writing wasn't already a subject for mourning. And what a loss that would be:
"Letters we value reveal the impulse to share beauty and sorrow with another; to give all we have learned and gained from life; to lift a little from the burdens, that borne alone, would crush and kill; they are the vision and the understanding which is art."
Although we have been taken by what seems to be a rebellion against our modern culture and have returned to the dreaded notion of "snail mail", we don't see it as a revolutionary gesture. We see it more as recapturing of that lost art of leisure. We sit down at our dining room table, position a piece of richly colored writing paper just so, taking a well chosen fountain pen in hand that has just been filled with a specially selected color for the person we are going to "pen lines to" and sit for a moment or two to gather our thoughts before we begin to put pen to paper. In the silence of our writing, you can hear only that ever soothing scratching of tips as they hum along their surface, and then another pause as thoughts are considered again. The word "soothing" just doesn't seem to do justice to the experience.
So if you are looking for a family activity that will reunite your members far and "mail" wide, consider writing a letter, handwritten with even some embellishments if you'd like. And if you are not sure how to get started, drop us a line at our home address of 442 S Pierson St. Lakewood, CO 80226, and we'll get you going. If you'll send us your name and address, we'll send you a letter, a brief correspondence to get us acquainted and then see where the pen takes us.
Although at the turn of the twentieth and twenty first century newspapers and journals were writing obituaries regarding the gesture and art of letter-writing numbering among the lost accomplishments, I believe that this need not be. Letter writing does not need to be a recognition of something that has become extinct, although it may be on the endangered list, this art can easily be recaptured and re-appreciated by one small gesture on one quiet Sunday afternoon in one conscious decision to be leisurely for a moment or three. So sit down for a moment in front of a piece of and place a pen in your hand pause and consider the legacy that you will be passing on.