Friday, December 30, 2016

Dear Pen-Pal...

When I was a kid I envied Charlie Brown. He had a pen-pal he wrote to, and I assumed (probably incorrectly) that this pen-pal of his wrote back.
I wrote letters as well, hoping to establish that pen-pal bond. Cousins in Germany, second-cousins-once-removed in Saskatchewan, cabin mates from summer camp, etc. There was a kid in British Columbia, the son of my mother's college room-mate, who came back with some considered epistles, but otherwise the pattern was established early and it never altered. I wrote once, twice -- three times, if desperate enough -- and eventually settled for the fact that my words had disappeared into a vacuum of utter silence.

The pattern continued when I forayed into the field of "Pro Writer" in the Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope era of "submission." Rejection slips were fine, the ones with encouraging comments added were appreciated if not cherished. But I'd say upwards of 65% of what I sent out just disappeared.

So when blogging became a thing, and I received my first comment from someone I didn't know, my response was quite naturally one of fear. They seemed engaged, even appreciative, but . . . I didn't KNOW them! When was the other shoe going to drop?

I got over it, needless to say. Then came the stretch during peak blogging when the comments thread was more fun than the post that generated it.

Finally, Pen-Pals!!

Then Zuckerberg's Beast slouched in, along with a few other also-rans, and blogging became . . . Not a ghost town, exactly, but something akin to rural villages tenaciously committed to a particular, but changing, model of community.

That's all fine. I established the habit of throwing out words, and so it shall be until for one reason or another I can no longer do it.

But I was struck, recently, by how fond I have grown of people I've never met except through this thing-we-call-blog. No need to name names -- if you've ever left a comment, you've added joy to my life. Now most of us are slumming with each other behind the blue-and-white velvet rope. Is it too much to say I love you? I don't see why it should be.

I care, dammit. I care that you're happy. "Happy" comes and goes, of course -- there are times nobody in their right mind should be happy, and brother, does this ever strike me as just such a time. But I care that you are engaged, that you love and are loved, that there is some measure of joy imparted to you through what you do and who you, in turn, care for. You cared enough to engage with me and these various outpourings of varying quality -- and for that you get, in return, a reciprocal degree of care that's just this side of creepy.

Happy New Year, in other words. Merry Christmas, if you can dig it. Live long and prosper -- that those you encounter may also.


Joel Swagman said...

For what it's worth, I also have enjoyed the back and forth of this correspondence.

I think I was reading your blog for about a year before I left my first comment, by the way. I had found it through Phil's list of links one day when I was bored and just clicking on random stuff.

We seemed to have a number of mutual interests, so that was a plus. But you also had a lot of interesting insights into those subjects, which meant that reading your blog would usually give me something interesting to think about. Eventually I had your blog permanently bookmarked.

This is the nice thing about blogging, as opposed to Facebook. Facebook is great for maintaining friendships over long distances, but not great for starting a conversation with people you don't know. But blogging can bring together people who don't know each other at all, but just have a lot of mutual interests.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thanks Joel, and back atcha. Yeah, I completely agree with you re: difference between fb and blogging. I'd maybe go further and add that fb actually complicates things with its inscrutable news feed algorithm. I have friends whose politics are not my own who occasionally link to pieces that make their pov explicable -- something I am always grateful for. But do you think I can fine-tune the feed to show me those stories and filter out the gloating and wailing? Something else that recommends blogging over the "punchier" varieties of social media, I'd say.

paul bowman said...

That you cared — that was plain from early on, by some signal or other I don’t clearly recall any longer. It’s made a very tangible difference in my life, ‘virtual’ medium or no, over these years.

And here’s another! Happy New Year to you and the Mrs. & the girls — and to the rest of the little circle I wouldn’t have known without you, whoever’s looking in. God willing, many more, please.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thanks Paul -- amen, and amen.