But then you read
Julia ♦ May 23, 2020 ♦ 6 Comments
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin
Although it took me quite awhile to realize it, I connect with people primarily through reading and writing. Even as a child I wrote long letters to friends, and had pen pals who lived close enough that we could have talked on the phone for free (back in the days when long distance was EXPENSIVE). But talking on the phone was not the same as reading or writing a letter. And there was nothing in the world like reading a book.
No matter how strange or different I felt, when I read books I knew I was not alone. That’s why I identified so deeply with this quote from Baldwin. Books for me were and are a safe place, where I can encounter a new idea and ponder it without being immediately questioned or asked to respond. It is also wonderful to feel as if I know people who lived decades and even centuries ago, just by reading their heartfelt words. There are many authors, living or dead, who seem more familiar to me than some of the people I see on a weekly basis.
Written correspondence (online or via good old-fashioned snail mail) has something magical about it. There are no distracting facial expressions or vocal tones to color the meaning of the words, and this is a tricky thing that can work for or against us. For that reason, I think we tend to take a bit more care with what we write than we do with what we say. That’s not to say that written words cannot be vicious or defamatory, but when they are written, we can more easily destroy them or ignore them, and keep them at a distance. Likewise, when we read words that are wonderfully encouraging or inspiring, we can keep them and go back to them again and again, not relying on memory or video as we must with the spoken word.
I hope you will carve out some time, today and every day, to engage in at least some communication through reading or writing. May you find it as rewarding as I do!
This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.
- Posted in: Uncategorized
- Tagged: authors, books, characters, connection, correspondence, insight, letters, libraries, literacy, literature, reading, sharing, sympathy, understanding, writing
Good morning, Julia!
Reading this post along with yesterday’s has given me a story of “aha” moment. Thanks for these!
I also realized how much I appreciate authentic disclosure. Facebook can be fun, but there’s a lot of re-posting and some authenticity is lost in the known public forum. A quick email or even a text provides more honest connection.
Facebook feels so much like spin to me, whether I’m posting something or someone else is. There’s something about it that says “I don’t have time for all of you as individuals, so I’ll just put this here in case you want to know what I’m up to.” I realize it’s not quite that simple, but there is that feel of impersonal contact to it that can’t be ignored. Having said that, in most cases (maybe over 90%) it is Facebook vs. no contact at all, and most of us would choose Facebook over nothing. I lost count of how many of my friends said “I only got on Facebook to keep up with my children/grandchildren because that’s the only way I can find out what they are doing.” Drew has never done Facebook at all and his wife blocked me years ago so I don’t have that as an incentive. But if I haven’t heard from someone in a long time, it’s nice to be able to check there for signs that they are alive and well.
Facebook helps me “cheat”, for example if a friend told me about a pending event they were excited about, I can check to see if it’s happened prior to our next meeting, and refresh my memory before I next talk to them. Sad, but true. There are now too many people to keep track of, so Facebook provides that “keeping track of” aspect. That and fun photos.
At the same time, Facebook add burden by alerting me to the many good things I could be doing, which I am missing, for example, volunteer opportunities. Yikes.
Yes, and for some of us, Facebook contact is just not as fun or validating as seeing a person face to face. Clicking “like,” after all, really takes nothing. Whereas spending time with someone DOES.
Loved today’s thoughts. As far as reading, I remember being read to as a child but then went through a desert, of my own making. I don’t remember reading a book on my own for many years. You can be sure I’m making up for it by read voraciously now. These days give me even more time to devote to books 📚.
As for writing, I grew up like you where you only called long distance with exciting or tragic news. So we wrote letters. Remember how exciting it was to receive personal mail, a birthday card or invitation? Today it’s either bills or ads. Ugh!
So I’ve come up with my own solution to communicating. It started when our youngest grandson went off to Boot Camp for the Coast Guard. We were told the the recruits had but moments to read any incoming mail. What to do?
POSTCARDS‼️ For eight weeks we sent our Coastie a postcard every day. Our other two grandchildren started getting postcards as well.
Our oldest grandson’s first response to my postcard was by text. He admitted to crying as I had written to him a memory of when he was a child. We our Coastie graduated he had a stack of postcards that he could have easily thrown away.
So the postcards continue…. these days there’s not much to say newsworthy happening here but that’s not the point anyway. It’s about taking the time letting them know they are in you hearts and minds. ♥️
Carol, I was much the same. From the time my children were born until I discovered books on cassette tape (around 1990, when I found them at the library) I don’t think I read for fun at all. When I got back into “reading” via books on tape, which I could do while working around the house and garden, it was like I had a whole new lease on life and my world became even happier. I had forgotten how much I loved books and stories of all kinds.
I so remember that telltale static on the phone line that told us it was a long distance call, and the resulting jolt of fear that someone was sick or injured. That was about the only time we got long distance calls back in the days when it was so expensive. Not only did we have letters to enjoy instead, but at Christmas, almost everyone sent Christmas cards and we got the loveliest packages from our friends in Germany, who sent treats that were unavailable elsewhere, the like of which we had never seen. Now with our global marketing, you can get anything anywhere and I can find in the commissary the chocolates and gingerbread that we used to get only once a year in international mail. It’s a great blessing but also not as special as it used to be.
You have hit upon an excellent idea about the postcards. So perfect in so many ways. Quick, inexpensive and often a visual delight. My friend and fellow blogger Alys introduced me to Postcrossing which I joined in January, right in time to be familiar with it by the lockdown. It has been a wonderful hobby! If you have the time and inclination, you might want to check into it. I’ve found that I love sending them even better than getting them, but it’s so nice to have pleasant exchanges with people all over the world, of all ages, all types and personalities, different cultures and experiences. It reminds me each day that the world is full of friendly people and that good will has a chance to survive no matter what.