During the course of the average workday I will field hundreds of emails, phone calls, and text messages.
The sheer volume of information I have to process, interpret, and relate on a given day sometimes leaves me a bit “tired in the head” by the end of the evening.
I long for quiet.
The instantaneous nature of so much of my communication makes me wonder what changes my mind has had to make over the years to adapt.
Is my mind getting better by having to maintain an almost unceasing dialogue with numerous people about various topics, or is it wearing down quicker? Is it gaining strength by constant exertion, or losing overall endurance by running many short sprints?
Growing up, my mind seemed a limitless well from which I could never drink enough to slake my thirst. Now, I sense a gradually creeping weariness, hidden in the shadowy corners of my conscience.
When I think about my youth, I remember how often my parents forced my siblings and I to stay outside. Phone calls were rationed, as was the amount of time we could watch television or laze around in our bedrooms playing video games.
Of course, such devices as smart-phones or laptops were decades away for any of us. My parents didn’t even own a computer until years after I’d already moved out on my own.
So if I wanted to keep in touch with my friends, several of whom lived in other towns across East Texas, I had to write letters. Letters consisting of scrawling and rambling correspondence from buddies of mine, and even a few ill-advised long distance attempted courtships.
By the time I left home, the bottom drawer of my dresser was stuffed full of such letters.
Granted, it was a slow process.
Over the span of a Christmas holiday, I may only have time to write and receive one letter but the Summer was the best time for letter writing, because there was nothing but long stretches of time to both write and to wait for a response.
Looking back, I loved the waiting. The anticipation and wondering at how my clever quips were received, at how my questions were answered.
There was also a considerable amount of creative labor that went into each letter. I would sometimes include drawing or sketches I’d done, or photographs I’d taken. Even the envelope would become part of the medium, covered with snatches of poetry or song lyrics.
My words, also, were carefully chosen.
I tried to craft my words in such a way as to elicit the maximum effect of what emotion I hoped to inspire.
To the handful of young ladies I’d hoped to romance, I wanted to communicate a certain wry humor seasoned with depth of feeling and sensitivity. To my buddies, I wanted to make them laugh and share the embellishments of my adventures.
Compare that to email, which is typed out in stark plain-text. Oftentimes is it hastily constructed and terse. Spelling and a structured flow of communication is set aside for brevity. Texts messages, all the more so.
I think waiting is important. There is something to be said for taking the time to measure one’s words and carefully construct a well thought-out response to an inquiry or remark. So many of our interactions are becoming increasingly abbreviated and, as a result, lacking a certain depth. Things are faster and, as a result, more ephemeral.
While technology allows us to make many more connections, and cast a wider network of friends and familiars, I wonder if it’s coming at a dear cost. A cost that none of us can truly understand right now.