The other day I wrote about the power of the handwritten note. It’s a fading art. In a growing digital universe, it’s rare to receive a scripted letter any more. (As a tip for marketers or for anyone who craves differentiation, it’s a great way to stand out.)
Generations from now, what will be left of our writing? I’m not sure. I’ve had friends unexpectedly pass away and wished I still had some of the emails that were routinely deleted. You could argue that today’s technology will ensure the endurance of the written word. That’s also true. With the ease of copying files and digital lockers, we won’t likely lose a manuscript to history. Perhaps the casual email and note, which at the time seems insignificant, is in a different category. I think much of what appears mundane at the time will be lost.
When I was a kid, my grandfather had a prized possession. His father’s diary. It was written in World War I as he crossed France into Germany. I’m not sure why he kept it so confidential, but if you were granted access to read it, it was a special honor. He told me that I would inherit it when he died. When it finally came into my possession, I carefully stored it away. The other day I took it out and read it. As I held the pages, and looked at the neat cursive writing, I imagined what it was like when he penned the words. How scared he must have been. How young he was. What dedication and duty to serve your country, no questions asked.
Generations from now, what will be left of our writing?
And here I am reading it casually on a comfortable sofa, safe in the suburbs. It’s because of the sacrifice of our vets that this is possible. Today I’m treasuring the chance to hold the actual paper he did. I feel awed. Connected.
Now, I’m no defender of the past. I like my digital gadgets and the interconnected world we live in. It’s hard to explain to kids today what it was like before everyone had a cell phone. When you talk about life before the Internet, well, you may as well be talking about the Dark Ages. The benefits of technology and our modern conveniences are clear. And yet in my own selfish way, I’m glad my great-grandfather didn’t have the ability to email, didn’t have my iPad, and couldn’t Skype the family at home. If he had, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get to know him in the same way. And now I’m beginning to understand the respect my own grandfather had for this diary. It wasn’t just about the words, but about the man, about the service, about the legacy.