Ten days ago, as I was packing to go house-sit for my brother, I received a note from a friend.
That sounds so simple, so mundane. I received a note from a friend. But it wasn’t just a note. It was a hand-written note. Hand-written in ink. Written in ink with a lovely, idiosyncratic fist. Written in ink on fine paper — paper thoughtfully chosen, with a graphic that holds a personal meaning to me. Written in ink and posted in an envelope with a delightful and eccentric selection of postage stamps
Hand-written in ink. Think about that. When putting ink to paper, the writer has only one chance. There’s no possibility to correct a mistake in ink, so the writing must be exact. But perfect exactitude in writing usually feels mechanical — pretty, perhaps, but without any true sense of personality. So in order to write fluidly and expressively in ink, the writer must be relaxed but deliberate.
There’s a concept in Buddhism called mushin, which is generally translated as ‘no mind.’ Basically, that means emptying the mind of crap-baggage like ego and expectation and fear. The idea is that letting go of any concern about the end product allows you to be focused on what you’re doing with a level of intensity that wouldn’t be possible to achieve if you were consciously thinking about it. Mushin in writing is to write unencumbered by expectations, free of the burden of perfection, embracing imperfection, accepting the perfect beauty of the imperfect.
I received a note from a friend. But he’s not a traditional friend. I’ve never met Fernando. I’d very much like to — but if I never do meet him, that’s perfectly okay. The internet, after all, has completely redefined the concept of friendship. It’s no longer limited by physical proximity; instead it’s grounded in shared interests. I ‘get’ Fernando. I may not always understand him, but I ‘get’ him. So yes, even though I’ve never met him, he’s definitely a friend. A friend made possible only through of the existence of the internet.
So ten days ago I received a note from a friend while I was packing to go house-sit. I read the note. Read it again. Knew I wanted to write about it, and set it on a table so I’d remember to take it with me. It was still there on the table when I got back home last night.
Here are the last two lines of the note:
There are just too few people one crosses paths in life that one can stop and make an effort to appreciate. (Their [something] is to be punished by trying to figure out my handwriting).
Fernando’s handwriting is…let’s say it’s free of the burden of perfection. And that makes it absolutely perfect.