When Karanja writes, it is colour and sound. It is visual, it makes you want to eat, or read or do whatever he’s talking about. You’ll see what I mean when you read this beautiful piece that’s subtle yet very palpable. Did I mention he’s my favourite Kenyan? Ok one of my favourite Kenyan’s 🙂
Smart phones, tablets, e-cards, voice notes, video messages, the list goes on for miles. Technology has advanced the way we communicate in ways nobody two decades ago could have imagined possible. We have embraced and proved to rely heavily on these new instruments bequeathed to us by the madmen of Silicon Valley and beyond who have dedicated their lives to making ours more convenient and reliable. But while I celebrate these innovative advancements in our sociocultural landscape, a part of me laments; elements of the past whose last vestiges are now faint memories in the hearts and minds of a fading generation. Chief among these is the venerable practice of letter writing; and I mean writing by hand.
Forget the infinite joy that overcomes me when I finger a handwritten letter addressed to me by someone I cherish, there is far more to this art that meets the eye, least of which are the health benefits that stem from it.
The time and effort taken to jot something down on a paper is a matchless show of dedication to its recipient as it is one of the more deliberate and honest channels of communication.
To write by hand is to confront one’s own feelings of fear, anguish, loss, affection or whatever emotions and experiences bind author to recipient. With each and every character you string together taking form to create meaning, there is a tugging on your heartstrings, you endorse the words you write with each following stroke and once put down, there is no backspace key to erase your truth.
There is a therapy about writing honestly which can’t be achieved by sending an e-card whose message was thought up by a bunch of high school drop outs sitting in the cramped office of an online publishing house in London.
I have a stash of the weekly letters my dear mother wrote me in High School (many went without a reply as I channelled money meant for postage stamps to the silly trappings of youth) somewhere waiting for the day I will feel her absence because I know first-hand the power that this old fashioned medium of conveyance holds. I once in a while read letters that my late grandfather wrote in the standard elegant flourish of intellectuals from his time addressed to family members and even staffers. Though not frothing with emotion –for he was a reticent chap-, they fill in me a warm closeness to him every time I read these letters knowing that whatever paper holds his thoughts was picked out by himself and cradled in his loving hands. If I were to lose my lover to death, it would comfort me greatly to know that his last caressing words were written in his own script on parchment that held private meaning to us both as opposed to delivered to my phone via this or that Instant Messenger.
While I could not be bothered to indulge in all the fuss that surrounds Valentine’s day for example, I have someone who expects a little show of acknowledgement attached to what I think is a frivolous tradition fashioned to dent the wallets of men the world over. I therefore will strive (if I do not forget the day) to attach to a small gift a note written in my hand with a message of some romantic complexion. Mine will probably be brimming with innuendos and lewd suggestions, but I digress. I always have and continue to agitate for the revival of letter writing but what I desire most is that we cultivate this culture in the children whose futures we are the custodians of. This can only be achieved by example. Where before you would have profusely thanked the office cleaner for his diligence and slipped him a hundred shilling note, put down your words of gratitude on paper and tape the banknote to its back. I would however suggest keeping it open to avoid whispers of a budding romance. Rather than post on your friend’s Facebook timeline how you share in the pain of losing a father, write a brief letter of sympathy and drop it at their house even in their absence.
I will allow that the power of handwritten sentiments can only be challenged by the soft whispering into the ear of a loved one locked in your embrace and even the elation of that cannot be carried through time.
Now people, arm yourselves with pen or pencil and go ye forth into the battlefield of honest expression my valiant soldiers and let’s reclaim this ancient art of immense reward.
Karanja is a LIKER. OF. THINGS.
Kenyan chap who finds repose in the searing touch of his own tears, dreams infinite prosperity for Africa, consumes literature with a manic gumption and will sleep in the gutter as long as he has a gourmet meal resting in his gut. Learning to temper his verbosity and never do anything common place or unremarkable.
LIKER. OF. THINGS