The Old Way



I found The John Lennon Letters (2012) in a charity shop the other day. Edited by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, it’s a collection of letters (no surprise there perhaps), postcards, fan surveys filled in by Lennon, and even shopping lists retrieved from bins. Fascinating, if you like Lennon as I do, and soul-curdlingly tedious, I would imagine, if you don’t.

The book, though, as well as my thoughts about the recent passing of Norbert Blei and other poets (see previous post), has had me reflecting for a couple of days about how much I prefer communication done in what Gary Snyder calls "the old way".Face to face is best, of course, but if you can’t manage that, it’s much better to have a physical object like a letter or a card from someone than an email or a message on Facebook. E-communication has its uses, but it’s not warm; it doesn’t feel like you’re interacting with anything other than the device that the message is coming through.

Yesterday I opened a book and found a card from my mother. She left her body seventeen years ago, but here was a thing she’d gone out to buy, rested on her lap or on a table one quiet afternoon, written a message in and handed to me on the morning of my birthday. “Still my baby boy,” the message said, in the large block-lettering I knew so well. It made me cry, naturally, but it also reminded me how much I was loved once, by her, and how lucky I was to know such a beautiful, open-hearted woman.It gave a piece of our time together back to me. I don’t think a rediscovered note in my Facebook inbox would have had quite the same impact.

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