An empty mailbox is an empty mind. It is a symbol. A sign of the times. Though most of us haven’t received an actual handwritten letter in months if not years, we still make the daily trip to the mailbox in hopes of a surprise – only to find more bills and enough ads to line a birdcage. Why do we even bother? The thought had never occurred to me to remove my mailbox, though I had a renter who did so and never received any of my letters concerning collections and maintenance. Convenient for him. Guess he had no hope of receiving a letter.
I think of The Postman, a film starring Kevin Costner set in a post-nuclear civil war America. Digital technology had been wiped off the continent. All that remained were isolted villages with walls to protect themselves from raiders. And one man pretending to be a postman was able to revive a country, one village at a time; all because of the hope and warmth passed from hand to hand with a simple letter. This is no joke. It is not a grandiose idea concocted by Hollywood (well, the post-nuclear civil war part was, but that’s all).
Letters are powerful. They are powerful, in part, because of the time and effort required. Letters are the classic, aged red while emails and instant messages are the fruity wine coolers. Both can bring a buzz, but one imparts a taste of history and warmth while the other is forced and overbearing. Modern technology carries none of the magic or mystery embodied in a simple paper envelope. I wrote letters to my wife when we were dating. I still write her a letter every now and then. But she lives with me, so sending her a letter via the postman is a bit unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad she lives with me. But a part of something is lost when the letter has no need of travel.
So I must look elsewhere to write my “letters.” There is always family in Oklahoma. I could write them, and I do on occasion. Not quite as poetic or romantic as writing one’s beloved or dearest friend. Still, it can be very rewarding. Once upon a time, the greatest minds of the age corresponded to one another through letters. Some of these have been collected and preserved for posterity. We can now buy volumes of letters photocopied between lovers or fellow professors. Discussions on the meaning of life, the makeup of the universe, and the price of love can all be found in these precious documents. They are the very thing which make women swoon. They can make a man giddy with anticipation. Where are the letters? We must bring them back, else a part of ourselves will die.