Last week I was at it again: hopping from one blog to another, sifting through streams of consciousness emerging from hyperlinked text bound to anonymous identities, searching for nuggets of gold, for literary gems that will not embrace print and find glory, and yet, in their own small world will entertain and edify.
The beginning, addressed as a letter to another blogger, conveyed the promise of something novel: a form within a form, a genre within a genre – in this case, a missive within a journal.
I read on, intrigued by the writer’s openness, and even though the postscript clarified some things, my curiosity to know what prompted the letter made me turn towards the blogger to whom it was addressed. A few more engaging reads later I found the post that triggered the letter.
The posts that stood alone were good, but these two had something special about them – they talked to each other, they connected two disparate threads of existence in a way that gave new meaning to each. And for the reader, observing this connection from a detached frame of reference was a bit like watching, with fascination, a conversation between two strangers revealing their innermost thoughts to one another.
It made me think about the beauty of this medium, the elegance with which it lends itself to enable connections between independent sources of thought. I also thought about the power of TrackBack, a technology that would, by permitting connections in the reverse direction, allow a reader who came first to the post in RandomRiting to navigate backwards to the letter in Unratiosenatic.
And then there was the epistolary angle.
Like journals, letters reveal subliminal elements of existence that are difficult to grasp from day-to-day conversations, but they go beyond journals in portraying an intimate picture of a relationship. Take for instance Franz Kafka, in Letters to Felice:
Just look, how many impossibilities there are in our letters. Can I remove the flavour of nauseating false generosity from my request that you write me only five lines? That is impossible. And is my request not sincere? Certainly it is sincere. And is it not perhaps also insincere? Of course it is insincere, and how insincere it is!
If we read because what we can experience first hand is limited, then reading letters would fill, partially, the void created by relationships we cannot have in our lives. And like online journals, letters exchanged online would give glimpses of lives that can reveal and instruct.
So there I was, on a working day in the middle of a busy week, sitting up well past midnight poring into this exchange between two people who were strangers until they ‘met’ on the web, thinking about how the confluence of technology and open-cultures made all this possible, when I heard my wife call out.
“What are you doing, so late?!” she asked.
“Er..well..browsing.” I replied. Somehow, the word – browsing – seemed too casual to be associated with the activity I was indulging in.
“What are you browsing?” She persisted.
“Connections.” I replied. “Connections between people.”
That sounded more appropriate; it was about connections, after all.