Valedictions are those little things that people put at the end of messages they’ve written, such as a letter (do these ever get written anymore?) or an email.
I’m seized with a bizarre mixture of dread and apprehension every time I get to the valediction, often switching to something else entirely (such as writing this) so as to avoid that crucial moment when I have to decide on which particular valediction to use in this instance. This reveals both my neurosis and the complicated, norm-less cultural milieu in which we live.
We’re confused and not sure if we’re sincere about much of anything these days, so sincerely just won’t do in most instances. And saying yours truly is fraught with the distinct likelihood of not wanting to offer myself up to this person, so traditional valedictions must give way, in all sincerety.
We are therefore left in a precarious postmodern space of make-it-up-as-you-go. Here is a chance to tell everyone who I am! Maybe I’ll even convince myself. Christians such as myself often succumb to the temptation to insert a benediction of sorts, using valedictions such as blessings, peace, peace be on you, etc. The particularly ambitious may also cite a verse (either as a reference or in full text) at this point, to prove their spiritual mettle. My sarcastic tone obviously reveals my shallow spirituality on this point, as I can’t quite believe that I am doing any of these sincerely.
Then we work our way into that zone of banality known as regards (and its kissing-cousins best regards and kind regards). These are the realm of the politically correct, who want to be cordial without offering any real inkling of any position in this whole sordid affair. They want to be neither stodgy traditionalists or religious-types in their valediction, leaving them with this limp-wristed handshake of a valediction to close their correspondence.
I can see only two solutions to this problem, one of which I need to quickly decide upon, lest I succumb to ever having to write anything like this again in a moment of valedictory angst. One solution is to embrace a summary rejection of the valediction altogether, simply placing your name (possibly preceded by a dash) after the last paragraph. The elegant brevity of this solution has much to recommend it, but it also can be read as somewhat cold and impersonal.
A second solution is to simply standardize myself upon a single valediction that will henceforth be used in all of my correspondence, removing the anxiety of having to make a decision every single time. The trouble here is that the aforementioned anxiety is collected and intensified into this single decision. I’ll save you, dear reader, a trip through my neurosis and say that using shalom as my valediction is probably the most attractive possibility, although it does make me seem like I’m trying too hard. But I do love the simple, hopeful invocation in that one little word, the calling-forth of a peace that is so much more than the absence of war; the promise of a world where valleys are lifted and mountains made low, where there is a state of general flourishing for all.
For now, at least, I leave you with: