When I’m faced with establishing new daily rhythms, as many of you are during this back to school time of year, I like to look at my daily rituals and see if they still make sense. I still do love my morning coffee nook and reading Facebook updates (until they get too preachy), but I’m lately, I’m tiring of too much electronic noise in general (which is ironic, since this most likely is being delivered to you electronically. Ah, tradeoffs). One of my favorite aphorisms that I think about frequently is Marshall McLuhan’s notion that “the medium is the message.” If you’re interested in this argument, here’s the Wikipedia synopsis.
I’ll cut to the chase: I read things electronically differently than I do when something’s on a piece of paper. I usually read for speed. But when I read or write a letter, it is an entirely different affair. When’s the last time you thought about writing a letter?
My late friend Malcolm was a beast of a letter writer. When I received one, it took all my strength not to read it right next to the mailbox. They were funny, ribald, tender and thoughtful. And in turn, I would write him back. It was a nice ritual: much more elegant than shooting off ” What’s up bro?” in a text coupled with a carefully considered emoticon. The handwritten medium showed he cared, and it just made me feel good to keep this communication going. Hand written letters make you think about what you’re going to say before you say it (which is a lesson for all of us to remember when posting in comments sections!).
So here’s my challenge: create one electronic free zone in your home where you have only a stack of nice paper, your favorite pen and maybe even a wax seal if you’re an overachiever. Alright, if you fail, you can occasionally put your laptop or tablet there. Just don’t keep it there!
Here’s some pieces that could go into carving out a new little non-digital area in your home. You might have a new spare bedroom to tuck it away in if you have kids off to college. And when they come back for school breaks, they’ll be great places for laundry drop offs, too!