Letters of Note
It’s hard not to become cynical and jaded in this age of Seen-It-All and Been-There-Done-That. There are moments, however, that have the ability to shake up this mentality and change our point of view. They can be small, fleeting, and perhaps unimportant on a global scale, but if one occurrence changes an individual’s outlook on life — or even if it just makes her or him smile — then that moment should be cherished. Do I sound like Oprah?
Yesterday Charlotte sent me a link to a story on Letters of Note about a group of students from Xavier High School in New York City. The high schoolers’ English teacher had them write letters to their favorite authors and ask him or her to visit the school. This was an exercise in persuasive writing, but what resulted was one of those special moments that
Oprah I mentioned earlier: five students wrote to Kurt Vonnegut, and Kurt Vonnegut wrote back.
Here’s a transcript of what he said:
November 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Anyone else feel supremely inspired?