I often want to write to beloved authors, or admired politicians, or otherwise famous people. I rarely do. Sometimes, but mostly to my current reps in local government, or maybe my state or national representatives. But artists? Orators? Activists? I always figure my message is but one of a gazillion or two, a drop in a bucket, a large bucket for some. What could it matter, my measly words on paper or in an email, praise from some who doesn’t figure into anything big or important?

Still, the urge to write remains. Sometimes it works itself into something written, yet never sent. Sometimes the sentiments seep into a blog post, or a reply in a comment section online. Mostly that kind of stuff floats around in my head, thoughts structured as words, but never committed to voice, paper, or bits and bytes.

But the essence of my desire to communicate remains.  What is it? what is this thing that asks to be spoken, written.

I think in it’s simplest form, that desire to write a thank you letter comes down to this: “without knowing me personally, you affected me personally.”

That is indeed a magical thing. Worth acknowledging. Worth thanking someone for.

I saw a quote from Carl Sagan today that kind of hits the same spot:

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

What a weird, special relationship to have with someone you’ve never met, and probably or certainly will never meet. And it seems so strange when their work – a gift to strangers that they, for the most part, will never meet – can have such deep and lasting impacts on me.

Ursula K. LeGuin. Frank Herbert. J.R.R. Tolkien. Louisa May Alcott. Emma Goldman. Malcolm X. Those are just the first names that pop up when I think, late at night, tired, two Tanqueray & tonics in my system. I’m sure I missed many, and some perhaps more important.

But still, the essence remains: individuals who, unknowingly, pushed me to think or act or reflect differently, always from the past, sometimes a very distant past. Sometimes from a life story, other times from an imagined place, a story, a tale, a snippet from life.

A weird twisting, mutable kind of human communication, of cause and effect.