|Notes|| Part 1:|
This collection of letters, what has become by sensible and insensible degrees a voluminous epistolarium, comes from my Bahai life, 1953 to 2016, and especially that part of my Baha'i life when I was a pioneer-traveler in and for the Canadian Baha'i community beginning in August 1962. In 1953 I was 9 and in 2016 I was 72. The letters come from my mid-to-late adolescence, and then from the early, middle and late adulthood stages of human development as the psychologists call the phases of the lifespan from: 15 to 19, 20 to 40, 40 to 60, and 60 to 80.
Since no man knows when his own end shall be, I could now be in the early or late evening of my life. I am now in the last decade(70-80) of late adulthood(60-80) according to one model of the life-span used by developmental psychologists. I post this reflection on a lifetime of letter-writing within the context of my society, my Bahai life and especially my pioneer-travel-teaching life. In 1962 my travelling and pioneering life for the Canadian Baha'i community began; the recollection of my letters before 1962 is very dim, and so the beginning date for my letters as 1960 is somewhat arbitrary. By 1960, though, I had joined the Baha'i community in Canada.
In addition to the 5000 letters, there are 5000 emails and internet posts. I have not kept the internet posts. They are scattered throughout the world-wide-web and, in many cases, will be untraceable. Virtually this entire body of epistolary material was written during what I have come to see as "the dark heart of an age of transition", an age which was and is my life, certainly one of the darkest in history as well as, paradoxically, in that century of light, the 20th century and the first two decades of the new millennium, the first decades, as well, of a new paradigm, a new culture of growth and learning, in the Baha'i community.
This collection of 10,000 items including those hybrid forms of letter, the email and internet post, which emerged for most of us in those fin de siecle years, and as the third millennium was opening, are written by and to a home-front pioneer-travel-teacher for a decade(1962-1971). They were then written by and to an international pioneer and travel-teacher over a period of five decades(1971-2016).
These are communications written to and from: a friend, a colleague, a family member, a fellow Baha'i, a person or persons at one of 1000s of sites on the internet, or a Baha'i institution at the local or regional, national or continental, or global level. There are snailmail, email and internet posts to a multitude of organizations or some personal association in an unnumbered set of contexts. Readers will find here at BLO general commentaries on my letters, and the letter as a genre, as well as many of my prose-poems on the subject of letters. These poems deal not only with my letters, but also those of many of the great letter-writers in history and literature.
Except for the occasional letter found below, the vast body of my correspondence is not included here at BLO. That collection of letters will be left in the hands of my executors to do with as they see fit, and the Australian Baha'i archives in Sydney which now has some 50 years of my correspondence.
Another 10,000 letters and correspondence of many types were written in connection with my employment from the early 1960s into the 1st decade of this third millennium, but virtually none of them were kept. The number of emails received and sent in the first 25 years of email correspondence(1990-2016) was beyond counting, but 99% of that incoming-and-outgoing correspondence was deleted. The small number of incoming emails that required a detailed response were kept as were my responses if they were more than a few lines.
On my demise some or all of this collected correspondence that can be accessed may be published. We shall see. I shall not see for I shall have gone to the land, a hole, for those who speak no more, as The Bab put it so succinctly. He might have added to the land of those who write no more. Those mysterious dispensations of Providence, and my executors, will determine what happens to this lifelong collection of attempts to connect with the minds and hearts of others by means of the traditional letter and its modern, its postmodern, variants.
More than a dozen years ago, in 2003, I began to keep all correspondence of significance in my computer directory; the only hard copies kept were: (a) letters from the few people who did not have an email facility and (b) an assortment of quasi-epistolary and literary material that had some relevance to communication with others. When I placed my letters in the National Baha'i Archives of Australia in 2010 I did make some copies of my incoming and outgoing emails from the period 2003 to 2010. All communications in and out are now kept in my hard drive, and on a memory stick. The result is a collection of hard copy and electronic letters from a 55 year period: 1960 to 2016.
The art of letter writing suffered a series of grievous blows in the last two centuries, say 1815 to 2015, and even more grievous since the outbreak of the Great War in 1914: the photograph and the telegraph, the telephone and the radio, television and the internet. The most recent blow has been, what might be called: the "e-mail-Facebook-twitter-age". This last blow has only been with us for a decade, perhaps two: 1995 to 2015. The telephone has had a full century or more to erode the letter-writing experience of humankind. Radio and television have now had, each in their own ways and together, nearly a century to erode the letter-writing experience of the peoples of the world. Of course, the experience and the results of all of these technological changes depend somewhat on where one lives. Keeping people's eyes away from print in all its forms is happening as billions more human beings are now on Earth. In 1815 there were 1.1 billion people on Earth, and now there are 7.3 billion people.
When I began writing letters in the early 1960s the world's population was 3.1 billion. Paradoxically, there are probably more people reading and writing letters now, especially their hybrid forms the email and the internet post, than at any time in history. Television, of course, makes us all more passive, in many ways more superficial, and also inarticulate--even those who don’t watch, since they must live among those who do. This, of course, is a quite complex topic which I deal with in my writings from time to time. There is reason to doubt, in fact, there is not much reason to believe, that the letter collection business will survive as a literary form for many more decades. Again, such a question has many complex permutations and combinations in the answer department as we all head at the speed-of-light through this 21st century and beyond.
What our wired descendants will be missing is on display in many extraordinarily rich volumes, and collections of letters now available in hard copy and in electronic form. It is not my intention, though, to comment in great detail in the following paragraphs of this book-length thread at BLO on the many highly diverse collections of letters. I do so from time to time in a cursory fashion below at Baha'i Library Online(BLO) to illustrate some aspect or other of the process and the art, the history and the human experience---especially my experience and study---of letter-writing over the last several millennia on the one hand and the last several decades on the other.