To whom it may concern
On September 11, as the news was breaking, I was writing an article about
the dying art of letter writing. I never finished it, nor did I return
to it. In fact, I deleted the article, possibly because of a brief notion
that the dying art should be allowed to die.
Indeed, it was a very brief notion, because I am a letter writer. I try
to write at least one good letter every week. Someone recently accused
me of leading a whole "separate epistolary existence," which
is probably true.
No recipient exists this week, however, or perhaps there are many. It
has always been my habit to use pronouns when I'm trying to be vague or
trying to leave certain things out, and I suppose the same might be said
of addressing a letter to an indefinite recipient. In this case, however,
there is a significant difference.
This letter reflects my private voice in a public space, and I have always
made a particular distinction between my public and private voices in
writing, but somehow, today, I know I'm very consciously playing with
those lines. It has been one of those weeks. Perhaps I need not explain
any more. We all have our notions of "one of those weeks," but
sometimes I'm not so sure people would understand mine.
It has been one of those weeks when a single word or look can send order
and control to hell, when the simple lack of a human connection, an interaction
cut short because of time, self-control, or adherence to a certain image
can kill all semblance of humanity and connectedness. You see, I often
find myself grasping for something that I know I am at fault for not having
in the first place.
It is our duty as students of our surroundings to deconstruct language,
to take down the walls of illusion and the constructions that make our
lives bearable. But, in more than one sense, language is my one great
source of comfort, in spite of the contradictions inherent in upholding
such a truth. I am in a minority, I know. People don't base their entire
realities on one inviolable (wishful thinking) thing. It's not wise.
I might even say that it's foolish. And our respective pasts teach us
to be fools in what will, just as they teach us to be wise in the respects
that we are. It has taken me longer than I think it should have to realize
how much my past has created my present and will continue to create my
My mother used to tell me that I intimidated some of my peers in high
school. I thought it was almost funny to think of myself in that way,
because I'm nothing more than ordinary. Nothing more, maybe something
less. It depends on whom you ask.
The fact remains, however, that I never wanted my identity to be intimidating
to anyone. I never constructed it that way. Other people did. It is not
enough that we can distort ourselves. Other people must be able to do
it for us as well.
The "one of those weeks" week that comes to an end today repeats
itself often during what would be all the dark, quiet hours of my life,
were it not for all the noise. Frustration lingers long where impermanence
Perhaps it must, if only so that it can find a voice, a language. The
great, ominous "They" tell me I'll grow out of "this,"
out of the contradictions, the frustrations, the questions, whatever "this"
could be, and I believe them. I have to, I suppose, or I wouldn't be writing
these words to fill this particular space. My opinion is that we do, indeed,
have to "grow out of it" when the notion of "one of these
weeks" becomes more, oh, common.
Yes, when. We can only move on after we have asked the questions that
plague us in the depths of all these passing weeks. The simplest questions
are always the hardest to ask.
My question is: How is it that in a world where it takes so little to make us happy, it takes so much to give that little piece of sanctity (or sanity)?