Friday, September 08, 2006

Reviving the art of letter writing

Our thanks should go to the 14 year old student, Hind al Hashimi, who recently had a letter placed first in an international competition. (Gulf News - Sept 9 06 p.6)

Hind asserts that although emails have their place in our fast paced world, it is in the writing of a letter that you find your creativity inspired and your true personality represented.

Letter writing use to be an art form - with the famous and the literate having letters published for us, their future readers.

T. E. Lawrence, later to become better known as Lawrence of Arabia, wrote prodigiously on all sorts of topics, from his archealogical/anthropological travels in the Levant of his day, to the 'dog fights' in 10, Downing Street and his own government's treatment of the Arabs and of his efforts to emancipate them from Ottoman influence and control.

His letters really represent what amount to what would be as valid as 'lab reports' to scientists; they are a truthful, sometimes subjective, account of the times in which he lived.

I mentioned the word 'subjective', in the knowledge that the word often makes people turn away, as if a truly personal account were something to shy away from. Yet, it is in a personal account, as opposed to, let us say, in an official one, that the real situation comes alive - in which feelings not normally portrayed in print come to the fore and bring life to what might otherwise be a lifeless account.

Hind is spot on when she says that the ways of expression and style are reduced to icons and rather simple words.

I would go one step further, and say that there is something in the pen that is not available in the keyboard - it is something akin to helping the continuity of thought. Whereas the technology of the keyboard, and the screen in front of you, gets in the way of real communication; it is as if this concentration on form comes in the way of one's ability to concentrate on content.

With a pen (full of ink) and a piece of blank paper, it can feel as if there is something embryonic about to occur.

In the famous film 'Doctor Zhivago' starring Oman Sharif in the title role, you may recall the blank page before him as he returns to writing his poetry, symbolising his return to a happier, more ordered life with his family out of pre-revolutionary Moscow.

The blank page can be intimidating for someone with nothing to say, but for the happy majority of us, it is a lawn upon which flowers will spring at the touch of our pen.
Robert Leslie Fielding


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