2021-01-17 22:45:50 (UTC)

Prompt 111: Writing For Real

111. Instant messaging on America Online (AOL) in the 1990s changed the way we communicate forever. Do you feel that change was for the better or worse and why? How important do you think writing letters and talking on the phone are in the present day?

I'm not fond of the Internet anymore. I used to think that communicating with people all across the world, watching movies, playing games, reading articles or even full books... All that was the most fantastic development conceivable. Nowadays however, I'm not so convinced.

Considering letters and phone calls brings this into stark relief. Having pen pals seems to be such a novel, unusual thing these days. I do trade emails with penpals on occasion, but it's when writing letters that I feel I'm engaging in an actual activity. Choosing a piece of paper, decorating it with drawings or stickers, pushing a pen across a piece of paper, articulated by the thoughts and ideas in my head... These are all things that seem so completely foreign to pretty much anyone else I interact with. Even the artist friend of mine who moved back into town, upon hearing me commenting about my pen pals and the fact that I actually write letters to them from time to time, responded, "That is so amazing, [kestrel]...!"

I remember when I was married, and off at college overseas. I wrote a letter to my wife every single week. I rang her back at home every Saturday, and my mother immediately after. I used to think, "Oh, I just had so much spare time while I was there, I was so poor I couldn't spend any money on doing stuff..."

But what typically happens nowadays? Instead of a phone call, or letter, it's an interminable string of text messages. It's perpetual scrolling. It's FB and IG posts. It's likes and emojis and Slack and Discord.

To write a letter doesn't require anything extra.

This doesn't mean that letters, phone calls, mail art, the (literally) written word are worthless. Rather, it seems their worth has been de-emphasized, and newer modes of communication are now emphasized and marketed much more aggressively. It seems to me that phone calls are taken for granted. They're either for old people, or for "business purposes." Conversational phone calls seem much less common now, being out of fashion.

In terms of communication, life isn't better, and even I have to admit that it's not worse (though I have abdicated from all social media and don't own a smartphone). It's just different. I suppose I'm just not interested.


I watched a documentary earlier this evening, called "Some Kind of Heaven." It was about residents of The Village, a planned community or old-folks' community, or whatever you want to call it. I wrote to my off-grid friend about it, as a response to one of her Gratefulness quotes. I've added it below.


Just finished watching a documentary called "Some Kind of Heaven." It focuses on residents of The Village, apparently a very successful "old folks' community" or whatever you would call it, in central Florida.

One of the guys featured in the film, Dennis, is an 81 year-old single guy from California, who admits that his plan on coming to Florida was to hook up with a single wealthy lady living in The Village, and then be set for life. In the meantime he lives and sleeps in a van - yes... an 81 year-old man! - and kind of drifts in and out of The Village, masquerading as a resident while he looks for a girlfriend. As it turns out, it's revealed that he left California after catching a DUI charge, and he fled before going to trial. He's technically a fugitive. The authorities catch up with him and he scrambles to find somewhere else to live.

He catches up with an ex-girlfriend of his after some time, and moves in. He seems instantly unsettled, and the woman acknowledges that he's distant, he has a lot on his mind, etc. Dennis' dilemma is laid bare: should he settle down with his friend, and be fully-invested in the relationship, or must a rolling stone always roll? At a soul-searching moment near the close of the film Dennis is thinking out loud, and mentions something that resonated with me:

"Comfort or freedom. That's the way it works. You can't have it both ways." Dennis eventually moves out and somehow deals with the DUI charge, moving back into his van.

It was an interesting film, investigating how people who know they are going to die soon (or rather, die sooner than most) choose to live out the rest of their lives. The backdrop of The Village is a bizarre, baby-boomer populated, Oldies-music saturated, alien landscape.

I don't want to dig too deep into it right now, but I saw some parallels between that film, the quote below, and the concept often referred to as The Hero's Journey.

I hope you have an excellent start to your week, [my friend]! Take care.