Last night I went to a talk with Frank Warren, creator of PostSecret, a project that invites people all over the world to create postcards with their deepest secrets and then release those secrets by mailing them in for publication on the PostSecret website. Here’s one example from this week’s secrets:
I realized as I was watching Warren’s presentation that PostSecret could totally be considered e-lit, a platform that leverages the expansive reach of the internet to build community (another thing I’ve decided is an important function of literature) by sharing these tiny essays and aphorisms with the wide world. In addition, submitters to PostSecret take the time to consider the container their thoughts are expressed in, decorating and designing their postcards to engage the audience and best share their hidden thoughts. Relevance!
The project makes me think of Edouard Levé, whose writings generally consist of a collection of one-line revelations about himself. Here’s an example, from Autoportrait:
I don’t really listen to what people tell me. I forget things I don’t like. I look down dead-end streets. The end of a trip leaves me with a sad aftertaste the same as the end of a novel. I am not afraid of what comes at the end of life. I am slow to realize when someone mistreats me, it is always so surprising: evil is somehow unreal. When I sit with bare legs on vinyl, my skin doesn’t slide, it squeaks. I archive. I joke about death. I do not love myself. I do not hate myself. My rap sheet is clean.
Each of these tiny revelations brings us slightly closer to who Levé is, or at least his own picture of himself. This makes me wonder about PostSecret then. Does the same function hold? Do each of these postcard revelations (of which thousands have been received and posted by Frank Warren over the course of the project’s seven years) bring us a tiny bit closer to who we are as a people? To what it really means to be human? All I know for sure is when I read the newly posted secrets every Sunday I feel a tiny bit more connected to my fellow human beings. And that, if nothing else, is what art and literature are meant to do.
Tell me a secret in the comments. Here’s one of mine:
I write because I grew up lonely and didn’t have anyone to tell my stories to. Now I shout them into the digital abyss and imagine an audience of loving friends is taking them in and nodding their heads and it makes me feel better.
See you in class,