Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You Are Real: on Letters, Spirit, and Canoes

By L.L. Barkat

(This is a first for Faith, Fiction Friends – a guest post. It’s by one of my favorite authors and poets, Laura Barkat – what an honor that is! She’s asked me to guest post at her blog, Seedlings in Stone, and you can find it there. We’re both addressing the same topic – is online life real?)

She was fourteen. He was eighteen. They fell in love by mail. When the war ended, they married. As far as the family stories tell it, no one ever questioned whether my great aunt and uncle had a relationship that was real from the start. In fact, their long correspondence was often painted as the sweetest part of the tale.

Fast forward to this July. I was interviewed, then challenged in a follow up email. The assertion? My online life isn’t real and probably, by extension, interferes with my “real life.”

I responded a bit straight up, wondering why Christians can believe in connection with an invisible Holy Spirit but not connection with real people over the wires. I mentioned that no one ever questioned the validity of my aunt and uncle’s correspondence, then added, “Maybe we don’t see the human in a uniform display font online. But the human is there. So is the correspondence.”

Sure, if I have the chance, I always reach for more dimensions. I’ve shared breakfast, held hands, paddle boated down the Frio River after first meeting online. It’s gone the other way too. I’ve briefly shared lunch and conference sessions in person, only to later solidify relationships online (I even hired one of my favorites. She’s a terrific writer and editor.)

At the end of September, if all goes as planned for HCB’s Fall Retreat, I will be blessed with the dimensional again. Glynn is already real to me, after more than a year of online correspondence and collaboration. But a canoe race down the Frio should prove this to the world.

For the record, I plan to let Bradley do the heavy paddling. I sincerely hope he is working out at a real gym in preparation.

Related: We Are Real by Ann Kroeker at The High Calling Blogs.

Photograph: Turning Dandy by Nancy Rosback. Used with Permission.


S. Etole said...

Headed over there, too ... appreciate you both.

L.L. Barkat said...

Thanks for sharing your place with me. Fun to be here! :)

Laura said...

You all are so real to me. Seems I share more of my heart here in this thin place than in my "real-life" connections. I think that is one reason we bond so tenaciously here. Well-said, L.L.

Now off to read Glynn's post at Seedlings.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed by he relationships and friendships I have formed online. I know a lot of my real-life friends and family members think it's a little crazy, but I long ago made peace with my craziness. ;) Honestly I think one of the best parts of online relationships is that they don't always have to happen in real time. I'm a busy mom and it's nice, when I have five minutes, to pop online and say hello to my friends and then pop back off again. :)

Deidra said...

There's some product out there who's commercial jingle goes like this: "You know when it's real." I hear that in my head as I read your words. Oh, yes. It's real. All of it.

Duane Scott said...

Do you remember that time when 15 miles separated us from becoming "real" friends Glynn?

Not that I don't consider you a "real" friend... don't get me wrong. But meeting in person? That would've been uber cool.

LLBarkat, this was wonderfully written. :)

Ann Kroeker said...

Love the example of your great aunt and uncle's correspondence, LL. Someone mentioned in the comments over at "We Are Real" (at HCB) that sometimes online relationships seem more real than offline...I've been thinking about that since I read it this morning. Does it have to do with the way we can share our hearts more easily and vulnerably through written words (as I imagine couples did when courting through letters) than when sitting face to face? Are we more hesitant to open up when we are in person?

This project has me pondering all of it. Thank you, Glynn, for inviting her to share this space with you today. And thank you, LL, for inviting me to enjoy the privilege of serving the HCB community as an editor. I'm sure glad we met at the that we've been able to continue building something *real*.

Maureen said...

These wires that are invisible to us make it possible for me to have relationships all over the world. They keep me in touch with family, they enable me to conduct business and have a business of my own, they give me a community like OurCancer, and they bring poets and poems into my life. They let my husband send me notes while he's working (and maybe nobody knows). They let me do interviews, compose words and read words, know the feeling of not being alone and the joy of laughter shared. And they make it possible to hope or plan for the day when the physical me and the virtual me present the one of me to some of you or all.

Anonymous said...

i'm real...
every bit.
well, except for some caps on some of my teeth.


Linda said...

You have put so beautifully all the things I've been thinking about Laura. As long as we are real, I believe these relationships are too. I love this community. Not only are there wonderful people here, but they call me higher.

Anonymous said...

Glynn, LL -- There are things you know about me, things I've written and you've read, that I've only said "out loud" on line. I'm real. You're real. We're real.

A wonderful retracing of reality, here.

katdish said...

The connections are as real as the people you are connecting with. I've met a few online friends face to face, and they were every bit as real as they are online. The advantage of meeting someone thru correspondence is that you cease sizing them physically and can concentrate on the person within. Then when you meet face to face, you already know them well. My experience, anyway.

M.L. Gallagher said...

If this isn't real -- I'm still happy. This feels so real to me -- these friendships of the ethereal thread.

Thank you Laura for putting such clarity to thsi space.

And thank you Glynn for being a solid foundation upon which to build in this really unreal but oh so real space.

Graceful said...

Love this post, and I'm totally digging the "get real" idea over at HCB.

I admit, I was a HUGE skeptic about the ability to form genuine relationships online. I am gladly mistaken -- HCB and many other online friendships formed via the blogging community have proven me wrong.

HisFireFly said...

Real is real
often more real
God real when His hand is on it!

This has been a wonderful community project in a community that is real in ways many will never understand.