The possibility of transmuting feelings into words, and words into binary code that travels over the internet into the screens of people, to elicit the exact feeling that is intended by the writer is amazing to me. It is alchemy. I know the science that makes it happen, but that doesn’t diminish its wonder.
I’ve been thinking lately about handwritten letters. I only got the chance to write a few of them before they lost out to the digital revolution. But the few times I received letters from loved ones, I saw how they evoke sentimentality. I still have those letters saved in boxes back at home.
When was the last time you received a love note? If I wrote this to you, sent it via the post and you received it via morning mail delivery, or picked it up in the post office, would it have a different effect? Would you cherish this more if it was written in my jagged handwiriting? Would you love me more if I sent this note to you on scented paper?
In the last couple of months, I have received three rejection mails. The first two were related to writing opportunities. I found them funny. I have little expectations of my words. I still get surprised when people tell me they mean something to them. The third mail was about engineering. There’s a chance I’m more insecure about my engineering aptitude than I am of my ability to convey feelings via words. If I fail at writing, I always have engineering. If I fail at engineering I have… *cue Nina Simone*
Recently, it occurred to me that I came to the internet too late to fully enjoy the part of it I would have loved the most: e-mails from friends. My love language might just be e-mails containing links to great essays and stories.
I received all the rejections by e-mail.
Last week I read about a tablet for the blind called Blitab. Once in a while, technology does something truly transcendent, something different from the current race to one-up the world via code. Visually impaired folks can now receive love notes without middlemen. They can now read those love notes without being worried that a stranger will see them blush. They can now receive rejection from their long distance lovers in tactile form. Bllitab’s creators know they’re not just turning binary code to braille; they’re dealing with feelings. Their tagline is “feelings get visible.”
All the rejections I got were written in language I thought was patronising. The choice of words made it appear like the folks who wrote them were concerned about my feelings. Of course, this is bollocks. It is simply good PR. If given an option between euphemised rejection and a sharp cutting off, I would always choose the sharp one. Sharp, precise cuts leave neater scars.
When I started this, I knew there is a possibility the reader will get to the end and feel sorry for me. I do not want this to happen. This is one of the dangers of words: they often take a life of their own and do to the reader what the writer never intended or envisaged.
In this age of overreliance on digital technology for communication, we are all, definitely, visually impaired. It is impossible to see me as I am now, so you are just relying on words to decipher how I feel. I am doing the same.
If you cry after receiving a letter, you’ll probably leave tear drops on the paper: evidence of your grief or joy. If you laugh too much, the letter might be filled with drool or spittle. The media by which we now communicate, however, leaves no evidence of emotions. (Except for like buttons, which are usually a false representation of how we feel.) So here I am, thinking you might be feeling pity for me, but for all I know, you might be laughing your head off. That is not a bad thing. It is what I did when I received those three rejection e-mails. But was my laughter true to my feeling?
Words often fail me, or perhaps I’m the one who fails them. I want them to mean one thing, and they mean ten other things that are not what I want. I encounter them and fail to experience the feelings they are supposed to evoke. I think I’m supressing my feelings about those rejections. Maybe the laughter would have been rage if I got those mails physically, via letters that I had to open with my hands and feel between my fingers. Maybe I would have ripped them in two, or pinned them to the wall in rage. Perhaps my feelings would have been visible.
Featured image by DVIDHSUB via Flickr