Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Of Handwritten Letters and Scribbled Notes

Somebody once told me I am an old soul. And although I don't think I am wise beyond my years (still childlike and childish at 24), it's nice that someone thinks you understand the world more compared to people your age.

But I'd like to think that my being an old soul stems from my traditional approach to things. Maybe I have lived a hundred years ahead and that my spirit thinks it's still in the same period, like it never left. It's still living relishing experiences and the only way to do those things again is to make it happen in this lifetime. I'm not sure now if I'm still making sense, but you get the point right?

One of the "old" things I tremendously enjoy is writing letters. There is something about stories written in ink and the anticipation it brings that make letters endearing. Whenever there's a chance, I prefer to write my messages and scribble my short notes, instead of sending them virtually. With the emergence of technology, handwritten letters are becoming obsolete. I remember when having a pen pal was a hit and knew of people who ended up together after having written each other. It has since become a thing of the past (and corny) when the internet arrived. We need our information fast and cheap, so we settle for e-mails, Facebook messages, and texts. 

Although I really cannot do anything, but to ride the wave of modernisation, there is still a huge part of me who wants to get my letters the old fashion way, longhand, stamps, postcards, post office, the works. My parents were lucky enough to enjoy writing love letters when my father lived in the US when I was younger. It was fun and heartwarming at the same time to read his letters now, thinking how much time he spent actually writing those, even when he was dead tired from work. I also kept a few postcards sent by Lian when she was in London and Scotland and Monica when she was in Malaysia. Honestly, I appreciate those things more than any other souvenir.

One of my books, Love Letters of Great Men and Women featured some of the most romantic love letters in our history. My favourite, not just because it's featured in Sex and the City (well okay partly) was Beethoven's third letter to his Beloved Immortal:
Good morning, on July 7 
Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us - I can live only wholly with you or not at all - Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits - Yes, unhappily it must be so - You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life - Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men - At my age I need a steady, quiet life - can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day - therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once - Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together - Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. 
Ever thine


Ever ours
I also frequent to Letters of Note, a site featuring collected correspondences written by people from different periods of our time. Although not everything is handwritten, it's still interesting to read through all sorts of messages, letters, postcards, faxes, telegrams, and memos. It's also fascinating to go through photos read a bit about them. I have bookmarked Stieg Larsson, journalist and author of the Millenium Series. This was his letter to his partner Eva Gabrielsson, which he specifically requested that she open after he dies.

February 9, 1977

Eva, my love,
It's over. One way or another, everything comes to an end. It's all over some day. That's perhaps one of the most fascinating truths we know about the entire universe. The stars die, the galaxies die, the planets die. And people die too. I've never been a believer, but the day I became interested in astronomy, I think I put aside all that was left of my fear of death. I'd realized that in comparison to the universe, a human being, a single human being, me... is infinitely small. Well, I'm not writing this letter to deliver a profound religious or philosophical lecture. I'm writing it to tell you "farewell." I was just talking to you on the phone. I can still hear the sound of your voice. I imagine you, before my eyes...a beautiful image, a lovely memory I will keep until the end. At this very moment, reading this letter, you know that I am dead.

There are things I want you to know. As I leave for Africa, I'm aware of what's waiting for me. I even have the feeling that this trip could bring about my death, but it's something that I have to experience, in spite of everything. I wasn't born to sit in an armchair. I'm not like that. Correction: I wasn't like that...I'm not going to Africa just as a journalist, I'm going above all on a political mission, and that's why I think this trip might lead to my death.

This is the first time I've written to you knowing exactly what to say: I love you, I love you, love you, love you. I want you to know that. I want you to know that I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. I want you to know I mean that seriously. I want you to remember me but not grieve for me. If I truly mean something to you, and I know that I do, you will probably suffer when you learn I am dead. But if I really mean something to you, don't suffer, I don't want that. Don't forget me, but go on living. Live your life. Pain will fade with time, even if that's hard to imagine right now. Live in peace, my dearest love; live, love, hate, and keep fighting...

I had a lot of faults, I know, but some good qualities as well, I hope. But you, Eva, you inspired such love in me that I was never able to express it to you...

Straighten up, square your shoulders, hold your head high. Okay? Take care of yourself, Eva. Go have a cup of coffee. It's over. Thank you for the beautiful times we had. You made me very happy. Adieu.

I kiss you goodbye, Eva.

From Stieg, with love.

While I know it would be silly now (unless you have so much trust to humanity) to write and send handwritten to complete strangers, I took a sudden leap of faith and correspond (although through e-mail) with a fellow traveller I haven't spoken to in real life and had just shared a few eye contacts with when we met. Honestly, the letters/updates have been a highlight of my weeks, and I hope I haven't creeped my friend yet, but I told my e-mail pal that it's actually refreshing to reply to mails aside from those I get from work. As much as I want to write with pen and paper, I guess electronic mails would suffice for now. But I hope one day, I get to receive actual letters and be able to give them without clicking "send."