08 February 2008

Blackberry Jam

Living thousands of miles from so many of my loved ones, I am keenly aware of the need to maintain friendships through frequent communication — and phone calls are expensive. So I write, and I am grateful for the technology of e-mail, that has made writing so easy. What seemed at its inception to be most useful as a paperless memo among colleagues has become the bedrock of modern epistolary literature, without the expense, delays, and fuss of the post. Now I begin most days with my e-mail, much like a Victorian gentleman at his desk, carrying on a wide-ranging, vigorous correspondence after a good cup of coffee and my morning newspapers.

Because I’m a writer by vocation, and because I’m unemployed, I enjoy advantages that my correspondents don’t. Most often, they can’t — and I don’t expect them to — write as long, or even as thoughtfully, as I. And I’m okay with that. Really. I just want to keep in touch.

The trouble is that a couple of my dearest friends have acquired Blackberries, and those little gizmos may yet drive a stake through the heart of written communication. I hear less than ever now from these guys (and you know who you are). Part of the problem lies in the Blackberry keyboard, which is too small for Arrietty Clock to manage properly. But the larger problem lies in the efficiency.

One answers a Blackberry message immediately, much as one would answer a phone call, regardless of whatever else is going on. Therefore one writes in haste, and seldom follows up. (Why would you write again? You answered already.) One confirms one’s existence, and hints that one has read the previous message, but one shares no news, expresses no feeling, illuminates nothing.

To help you to understand what’s at stake, I’ve taken a few famous letters and supplied the responses they might have received, had Blackberries been in use in previous centuries.

Giorgio Germont to Violetta Valéry (La Traviata)

You have kept your promise. The duel has taken place. The baron was wounded but will mend. Alfredo has gone alone into exile. I myself have revealed to him your sacrifice, and he will return to you, to ask your pardon. I too shall come. Take care of yourself! You deserve a better future.
Giorgio Germont

Luv U 2!
[Sent via Blackberry]

Virginia O’Hanlon to the Editor of The New York Sun:

Dear Editor:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Fifty-Ninth Street

[Sent via Blackberry]

Rainer Maria Rilke, to a Young Poet

Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art — as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature. I am glad, in a word, that you have overcome the danger of landing in one of those professions, and are solitary and courageous, somewhere in a rugged reality. May the coming year support and strengthen you in that.

[Sent via Blackberrry]

Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, First Letter

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

[Sent via Blackberry]