while we were at the beach this past weekend, we had a moment. we turned off the lights, lit some candles, listened to sigur ros, and acknowledged the flickering flames that are our lives. grant talked about thumbing through the guestbook at their beach house, where so many people who are now gone wrote their names and their essence on lined pages.
since then, i’ve been thinking a lot about the immortality of handwriting. i think grant said it best: our handwriting will outlive us, and it will be the marker of something that used to be. i remember reading some of my grandmother’s letters to my mom or to me, and the way she wrote is permanently embedded in my mind and i can’t think of her without thinking of her very distinct penmanship, all of the slightly slanted whorls of cursive. her handwriting is as clear in my mind as her face is. and it’s strange to me that we have found ways to preserve letters and instances of a person’s handwriting so that they are a living record of the person whose life could not be preserved.
mikhail bakhtin wrote this essay on the nature of language, where he asserts that words always only half belong to the person saying them, because they interact with other people, and then the other people adopt them and make them their own (or at least half their own) by speaking them, and then other people hear it and adopt it, and so on. in this way, the word is more alive than humans are, because it is passed on from person to person, and continues to live even after the person speaking it is dead and gone. human beings are just kind of a vessel for the word, which is the real living thing. it’s bizarre to think about, but i feel like handwriting kind of functions in the same way: it is a live representation of something that will perish (if it hasn’t already) and it is passed on from living person to living person, so that everyone who views it can archive it in their memories. it will always outlive the person that wrote it, but it will also always outlive every person who views it; it is immortal.
it makes me wonder what people will think when they see my handwriting after i’m gone, what my handwriting will say about me. if it will give people a sense of who i am, even if they’ve never met me. i hope it does.