#1 On the beginning of letters

Dear Jamie,

I propose we start writing letters to each other. The rationale is pragmatic, we both like to write but we tend to do it in tandem. That makes progress slow. Letters meanwhile are necessarily separate. While the rationale is pragmatic my motivation is not. I want to reclaim our habit of dialogue to pre-you-moving-away levels. Usually bouncing ideas off only only one person might be considered a bad thing, an ecochamber. Ours is worse, which has its advantages. Based on a decade of friendship with uncountable in-jokes, our ecochamber is more of a long, thin wave-guide. Yes, narrow but it can efficiently propel us in any direction. Unburdened by evidence or peer review the end of it flails around and lands us in novel positions.

My inspiration came from reading Letters From a Stoic. This is a collection of letters between Seneca and his friend Lucilius. The letters Lucilius’ wrote are lost, but Seneca’s remain (seems strange to me, you’d think because Seneca was a more important man, his letters, i.e. the ones he physically had, i.e. Lucilius’ letters would be the set most likely to survive…). The letters are mostly brilliant and of course we could never write anything anywhere as good as his works, but at least we could emulate their old-fashioned tone. Even if the tone is actually that of a 20th century translator.

You moved to from Canberra to Queensland. It’s a distance commensurate with that that separated Seneca and Lucilius, but we face a few extra challenges than those Romans. The incredible advances in communication means you may as well be as far away as London. And advances in air travel and tourism means, if I were to travel to visit, I may as well go to Singapore. You understand.

Here are the rules I suggest:

  1. We do not talk about the content of letters at all when we speak or meet. Or in other content on the blog. This is a full on parallel dimension of dialogue.
  2. Drafts aren’t made here on the website. They should be hidden until published.
  3. Letters must be replied to within 14 days. I suggest setting up somme punishment for not replying. Maybe like Stickk?
  4. All letters are given a title with the heading “On [the] …” because that’s what Seneca didn’t, but later the translators did.

I don’t want to specify things any further than that. I’d hate to make it more artificial than it already is. Like all good things we can trial and error this mofo until it gets a character and pulse of its own.

With all our past projects we had a consistent problem: do we write for an audience or do we write for ourselves? Writing for audiences is a quicker way to get an audience, but much less fun that writing for oneself. As with many topics we’d land in different places on this spectrum. I don’t know about you but I’ve now landed permanently on the idea that you should always do artistic things for yourself. Even if it means getting a day job. Creating for an audience might speed up your popularity, but that only increases the rate at which you need to do something that, by definition, you don’t really want to do. Plus Stoics hate that shit.

I don’t intend or expect this to be a popular thing but like in everyday life there is always a temptation to act to an audience. Making the letters public might seem counterproductive to this end, but we’ve ignored audiences before. Like everything I hope we can go too far and write these letters not to each other, but for each other.