The other night I had a dream. I opened a letter and read it out loud on camera for this weeks show. What a nightmare.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2021/11/06/301-2142-i-aint-reading-all-that/
Watch 301 on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/jayspringett
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo
I Ain’t Reading All That
10 years ago tomorrow – the 7th of November, my Grandad died. I still miss him every single day.
I wrote him a letter after the funeral, on the train back home to London.
I wrote about how much he meant to me. I asked him the questions I wish I’d asked when he was alive. I wrote about the little things: His clandestine pipe smoking. His Trebor mints and Werther’s Originals, his way with animals. How he would always find money on the beach??
I thanked him for sitting with me every single day after I came out of hospital – both times. And more.
I was, as you can imagine, a mess. Writing longhand on the tiny table on the train. When I got back to London, I placed it in an envelope, sealed it with wax and put it in ‘The Box’.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. ‘The Box’ . A container so important that it’s capitalised. Full of memories and mementoes.
Grandad has obviously been on my mind this week. The other night I had a dream. I opened the letter and read it out loud on camera for this weeks show.
What a nightmare. The idea actually woke me up wondering what on earth the dream world was trying to tell me. As I disgusted by the whole idea.
There is absolutely no way that I would ever debase myself in such a way for content. I mean I’m sure, there are people out there who would post shit like that online, but I’m not one of them.
So it stays in ‘The Box’. Along with the other letters that will I hope get tucked inside the breast pocket of my suit when the time comes so I can deliver them by hand.
Anyways, moving on from that last planned act of necromancy, I want to talk about correspondence in general.
I’m currently reading the collected letters of JRR Tolkien. It’s super interesting.
The frequency that Tolkein, his family, and friends wrote to one another is fascinating. I’ve always thought that the olden days were somewhat low information worlds. But not at all. Some letters were dashed off to catch the return of post. Others are long considered drafts with editorial notes in pencil saying they were sent with ‘much editing’ or sometimes not at all.
Postcards, I guess, used to be a bit like Instagram.
It wasn’t until late in life that Tolkien started making carbon copies of his correspondence. So much of the material comes from the archives of his publisher. And from fans who after Tolkien’s death were asked if they had kept any correspondence.
There is also a fantastic footnote about W. H. Auden.
He apparently would burn all letters he received immediately upon reading. In fact, Auden went so far as to state that on the event of his death that a notice “appear in the American and British Press requesting any friends who have letters from me to burn them when they’ve done with them, and on no account show them to anybody else”.
Auden strikes me as the guy in the group chat who demands disappearing messages and screenshot detection is turned on.
I’ve seen some sentiment that the vast digital archives we are generating daily means we are producing a golden age for future historians. But I’m not so sure.
Only a psychopath wades through 80,000 tweets. Who in their right minds want to dig through a half a million message long whatsapp conversation between two former lovers in the mid 2010’s?
99% of everything we add to ‘the archive’ is total bollocks.
We live in a world dominated by text. Yet we barely ever express anything longer than 240 characters. There’s a reason TLDR and “I ain’t reading all that. I’m happy for u tho. Or sorry that happened.” are meme’s.
Chat conversations are bite sized. Truncated. A game of tennis rather than true dialogue.
Reading Tolkien’s letters, you can see an idea form in April and then develop in another letter sent in May. The form of the letter allows for exposition.
There isn’t a further direction for this episode beyond that observation to be honest
Other than that, I’ve been thinking shallow thoughts about blogs, letters, archives, Discord, chats, group chats, and privacy.
I’ve been thinking about life before the smartphone. As a teenager or in my early 20’s talking on the phone with people for hours. Ephemeral conversations of which now there is no trace, no evidence, and to be honest, no lasting memory of – at all.
I’ve been thinking about why (in my opinion) some of the most intellectually fulfilling spaces I inhabit online all have disappearing messages turned on. There is nothing better than being presented with a clean slate every day. Perhaps it’s a shared understanding of ephemerality that changes the vibe of the digital space?
I am, as a rule, suspicious of nostalgia. So I don’t think that writing letters will improve anything. But I have been thinking about the physicality of The Letters that are in ‘The Box’.
I’ve been thinking about the two big trends. The return of the real, and the Metaverse.
So I’ve been thinking about starting an actual physical, printed, and posted Newsletter in 2022. A zine like thing. Maybe for paid supporters £5 a month and up. I’m going to give it more thought.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints.
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