Writing to the General: Or, How I realized copying letters for Amnesty International is a spiritual practice

So, there I was, copying out sample letters to send to various generals, dictators, potentates, and other bad actors or their ambassadors asking as politely as possible that they stop torturing someone, and, if they could, please, pretty please to go one step further and let that person go free.

Okay, copying isn’t exactly right for how I do my letters. People have noticed I’m not the most compliant person they’ve met, and so, yes, I made various changes on the fly while doing my best to honor the intent and the tone suggested by Amnesty International. Considering their successes in this their most important project, that seems the wisest course.

As I paused to rub my hand, I realized how rare it has become for me to hand write a letter. While working on my knuckles and fingers I thought how quickly things change. Along with reading newspapers and sending Christmas cards and other things of bygone eras, I recall my childhood and how my mother insisted writing letters and notes was what any polite person does. I don’t think I did it a lot, but I do remember a couple of hand-written, always belated, thank-you notes to my grandmother—usually, at least in my memory, for socks.

I thought about notes thanking my grandma for small gifts and how it was a discipline, and how I was now writing letters, and how the emotion that I was feeling at that moment was in fact at odds with the tone of the letter that was flowing from the pen in my hand, and I realized how this mapped the frequent experience of real spiritual practices.

For the rest of the story, take a little visit to the UU World magazine…


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