There Are Those Who Disappear
I am inclined to write that losing people is a part of life we have to accept, and then leave it at that. As an explanation it is simple, honest, and hits the nail right on its head; but there is far more to it than that. We cannot just write people off because they have moved, because they have stopped writing or because they have died: all these people remain in or memory, for whatever reason, and are as much a part of our make-up, our lives as anything else. The thing with real life is that we do expect people to move on, and we do expect people to disappear, to lose touch with them for whatever reason. But that is real life and not what we are talking about here: here we have a sub-form of life, if you care to categorise it, something which is only real on paper and which, being quite honest about our favourite hobbies, could just as easily be a fiction caught within the covers of a book as it could the life and loves of a person living somewhere else on this small planet. In theory, because of the nature of our friendships, of this form of life we have chosen, there should be no loss. We take the connection with us wherever we go, can write letters and send postcards from anywhere in the world, can retain this friendship through thick and thin.
Yet, there are those who do disappear, as you say, who simply stop writing for one reason or another, and leave us wondering whether it is our fault, or whether something else has happened to which we are not a party. Of course the first reactions we have is that one of our letters has not arrived, or that they have simply put off reply for personal reasons. Perhaps someone is ill, or they are moving house, or job, or there is too much going on in their lives at the moment and they need a time out. Time wears on, though, and we still have no answer and begin to look at ourselves: am I the one who is at fault or, as you put it in your letter, am I boring them?
This is, of course, an impossible question to answer since they are no longer writing and, in all probability, would not answer if you wrote to ask them or, worse still would lie to you, perhaps write once or twice more over a longer period of time, and then disappear again. Very few would write back and admit that someone is boring – it is just something people do not do – even if they are, even if they constantly repeat themselves and can broach no new themes in their letters. In many ways we are still, a very polite society, unlike social networks in the internet, and do not like to upset others. We turn our backs on them, quietly go away and ignore any further attempts at contact; the thinking being that the other person will take a hint and leave it well alone after a very short while. What is not taken into consideration are the feelings of that other person who, having probably enjoyed, if not lived for the correspondence, is left hanging without an answer.
Is anyone boring? This is a very broad question and one which is probably impossible to answer satisfactorily, but it all depends on the person who is doing the listening as much as he or she talking. A conversation can be boring, and I count letter writing as an extended conversation, when it is not fed, when it is not actively advanced by both sides. If the one side does not bring something new into the conversation, how can the other answer it? And what we find small and uninteresting in our lives is often of great interest to someone else: we wrap ourselves up in the fascinating and follow it through all the time, without realising that this is what creates boredom, following the same thread constantly, without looking left or right along the path we are following, without taking a chance on something new and unusual. If we follow the same theme all the time, without adding anything new to it, a conversation will wither and die.
In the beginning, when we start writing to a new person, we all believe that there is a wealth of things we can write about, that the chances are unending, and we enter this new relationship with abandon, with bright prospects and good hopes. Things are not quite so easy in life, though, as we try to match ourselves and our interests to what they have to say, to meet them halfway or show that we, too, have similar interests. The selection becomes smaller as a result, the things we can talk about, feel comfortable talking or writing about retract, dwindle. We fear upsetting someone who says they have strong feelings about this or that subject, because our own feelings, beliefs, are different. We back down from a good discussion for fear of loss. Which is, in many ways, understandable: there are more than enough people in this world who believe that their way is the only way, that their belief – religious, political, whatever – is the only true path to the light of eternity, and that anyone who does not follow this path is a fool, an idiot, hardly worth spending time on.
Now and then, though, we have to take a chance and really challenge the assumptions of other people, and of ourselves, and go into dark areas we have never been before. We fight against the accusations of being boring by taking new paths, exploring new ways, and challenging all-comers to follow us, the experience with us, and to pass their experiences on to us. We seek debate and discussion, yearn for disagreement, love to see through the words / eyes of another person. Every single letter written, in such a friendship as we have, should be some form of challenge to get the other person out of the shell, into a new arena, and confront them, dare them to take on something new. Your requests for information on several subjects which interest you suggest that there are many things you could be writing about, many things which might challenge the thought processes of those people on the other side of the wall and give them food for thought, so I see little reason to suspect that anyone would categorise you as boring, if you follow through with these interests and, at the same time, delve into those of your correspondents.
No, I didn’t say I wouldn’t write to you until the new year, although it may well be that this letter arrives after the ball has fallen in Times Square. I tend to answer a letter received within two days of receipt, never putting it off further if at all possible, so that the initial thoughts I had while reading a letter are still fresh in my mind. Sometimes I even write the reply while I am reading, in my head at least, and then try to put these ideas down on paper as quickly as possible. I, too, have to be careful with my finances, and weigh up what I can and cannot do each month although, as you can appreciate, do have slightly more room to move than you do. No, my mentioning something for next year was not about writing, but about assisting you in your writing but, because of my own situation, that must wait until the first frosts of January are out-of-the-way. Or, if it continues the way it has begun, the first rains. We have had snow, here in the north, but merely one or two inches overnight, and then it disappeared again. This did not stop trains being cancelled and people claiming they couldn’t get in to work, but the streets are clear again now, a few hours later, and we have returned to the steady rain vying with fog and dull overcast days which have become normal at this time of year. When I first arrived in this country there was a guarantee of snow, from mid November onwards, but this has vanished from the forecasts now, and it is often just rain we can look forward to, and snow for a few hours if we are lucky.
Christmas is one of those seasonal times which have little real meaning to me. It is not that I am irreligious, although I do not officially follow any of the dogmatic religions, but that the idea of Christmas which prevails today is not that which I believe should be followed. We have become, and this was also a complaint when I was young, a society more enslaved by commercialism than by belief. Christmas is a time of giving, for some, and a time of getting for many. We see rows and rows of shelves in all the stores, often as early as August each year, with all the latest gifts and gadgets which the well-to-do family should have, which the most up-to-date children should possess, which animal lovers should be giving their pets, and I simply cannot get into this way of thinking. Added to which we are called upon – which is not such a bad idea – to give to those in need, to the poor and those with less than we have as if this were the only time of year when we should turn our attention to those suffering or in need. Their poverty does not disappear in mid January and reappear at the end of November, it is always there and, sad to say, through the actions of successive governments and major commercial enterprises in many American and European cities, the level of poverty, the number of homeless people, is rising.
I do not have a Christmas tree with gifts piled up beneath it, nor do I decorate my house with lights and models of a round, jolly, Santa figure. There will be no one visiting me over the holiday, no telephone calls or cards wishing me all the best for the season and the new year, no carol singers in front of my door. I will probably take my usual walk through town in the morning, and then another late afternoon and be quite content as a result. Between the two walks I will write a letter or two, listen to the radio or read a book. This is my ideal day, unless I happen to be able to travel somewhere, visit a museum, an art gallery or something similar. I know that many people will count me as being a spoil sport, or a misery guts or whatever the current term for a normal person following his own lifestyle is, but it makes no difference to me at all. I’d rather have the pleasures of life spread out across each individual day, than bundle them up into forty-eight hours or forced enjoyment, doing things which hold no interest for me whatsoever than succumb to the commercial ideal. But, at the same time, I will probably raise a glass at some stage, and toast the memory of the man who came and left more behind him than many others, and wish that more people – as with all the other prophets we remember across countless religions – would read and interpret as originally designed, and not according to their own ego, their own desire, their own megalomania dictates today.
As a final note: I don’t stop writing to people, I enjoy the pleasures of correspondence too much, of making and keeping a special friendship, a written relationship in a modern, hectic, too-fast-for-most world. It may well be that people stop writing to me, because I am perhaps too boring, or too much of a challenge, but not the other way about. Your letters and mails will always gain a reply from my pen.