I had a question posed to me today.
A somewhat disturbing question.
A question which, if taken literally, is very confronting.
If nobody is reading this blog – do I really exist?
Yes, it’s a question that has been posed in various guises over the years, but I’ve never really had it personalised in such a way.
I just hope I can sleep tonight.
Confession time: I thought I was smarter than that!
What brought me to this startling conclusion?
About three months ago I replaced my old mobile phone. When I say old, you’d better believe it. It was nearly 20 years old and I was reluctant to get rid of it because I was on a very cheap plan. I mean, how many phone companies offer a $10 per month plan these days? I went into a local well known phone company’s retail outlet and they looked up details of my plan. The manager – all of 20 years of age – wasn’t probably even born when my old phone was being made. I’ve never seen a plan THAT old, he quipped. Made me feel positively ancient, like I’d borrowed it from Moses or Noah. Perhaps Methuselah.
I then bought a new, you beaut, all the bells and whistles smart phone. Beam me into the 21st century, Scottie. (Mmmm.. that illustration is getting a little old too.) Cost me a small fortune, it did. But I was cunning – I did the modern thing and got a good bargain by buying it online. Thoroughly modern me. It arrived in the mail a few days later, I inserted the new SIM card – boy, had I got a good deal on the plan from my internet provider – and went to charge the battery.
I waited, and waited, and waited. It wasn’t charging. All weekend. That’s not right, I thought. Eventually a friend discovered that I hadn’t put the back cover on properly. Doh. He said I mustn’t have held my tongue right.
That changed everything. All systems go. So over the next month or so I was on a very steep learning curve, adapting to using the new device. Remember the ‘good old days’ when phones made and received phone calls? I discovered that this new ‘phone’ did so much more than that. Photos, SMS, internet access, games, email, Facebook, Twitter… and that’s just for starters.
In fact, I suspect that I’m only using about 5% of its potential. There are so many icons I afraid to press – just in case it does something very odd – or expensive. In fact, the phone is so smart it does things without me giving it permission. That’s scary and just a tad worrying.
Despite all the fancy bells and whistles, I can still make and receive phone calls.
It is so satisfying that some things remain the same – in a rapidly changing world.
I am currently reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer. I borrowed it from my daughter more than a year ago and have just managed to squeeze it into my very demanding reading schedule. Actually, I have been wanting to read it for some time. It took a little while for me to warm to the format – a series of letters written from the various characters to other characters in the story – but once into it about 30 or 40 pages it really grabbed me. The letters range from a sentence or two through to many pages, recounting the lives and experiences of the eclectic gathering of characters who experienced the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2 as well as a few in London during the same time. It’s an absorbing insight into the lives of ordinary folk in extraordinary circumstances.
The letters have set me to thinking. In these post-modern times we appear to have lost the gentle art of letter writing. In an age where many people are writing more than ever before – emails, Tweets, blogs, Facebook status updates – we rarely take the time to actually take pen to paper and physically write a letter. Even the birthday cards are quickly scrawled messages and our Christmas cards have a quick message plus often a chest-beating, look-at-my-family typed and printed in gaudy colours newsletter.
This is a great pity.
There is something wonderful about receiving a hand written letter from a friend or family member, especially those living in remote places from our normal circle of activity. The effort taken to actually take the time to hand write a letter is considerable in these instant times. And then to Snail Mail it? Well, that could take days to arrive – or more. How many homes actually have a supply of postage stamps any more? Or writing paper and envelopes for that matter. I also despair at the trend in our schools to no longer teach physical handwriting skills. I foresee a generation developing who cannot put pen to paper, let alone actually write a letter. Our language will suffer and drown under an ocean of SMS messages and Tweets and degenerate into a series of communicative grunts.
I think I’ll go and write a letter to my brother – but first – I’ll just Tweet about it.
On Friday last while waiting for my wife to come from her appointment I went for a cup of cappuccino in the hospital coffee shop. I lined up to be served and the lady behind me suddenly asked if I’d like a free cup of coffee. It’s not something that happens every day so it took me a little by surprise. She explained that she had plenty of vouchers for free coffees and was pleased to share one with me. I agreed, and then struck up a short conversation with her while waiting for our coffees to be ready.
This random act of kindness got me to thinking; what if everyone set out every day to display one act of random kindness to someone else, preferably a stranger? What a better world this would be?
How about it?
Here’s the challenge: try doing just one act of kindness to someone else every day. Not only will those people be especially blessed by your action, you, too will be blessed in amazing ways by making this world just that little bit better, kinder and friendlier.
We had a few showers this week but overall it was a beautiful week. Plenty of sunshine, gentle cooling breeze and not too hot. Just great for working in the garden, something I’ve done a lot of over recent weeks. It’s now looking much better for the effort. Mind you, the five acre block we enjoy – “The Estate” – had been sadly neglected over the last 3 years while I did my masters degree.
Yesterday I went to collect the weekend papers from the driveway. As I looked towards the west I saw a brilliant rainbow arching right across the sky. I was reminded of the saying “Rainbow in the morning, shepherds take warning.”
Well, I’m not a shepherd and haven’t owned any sheep for over a decade, so does the warning apply to me? And does it also apply to writers, and other occupations? What about them? And why just shepherds?
Then there is the vexed question of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Does one pursue it in the off chance one can find that wonderful treasure? It was quite plain to see where the rainbow ended yesterday – right out there in the paddock just up the hill a little from our driveway. About 200 metres away. A quick two minute jog and I’d find it.
And suddenly I was reminded of the promise to Noah in the Biblical account of The Flood. God promised never to flood the whole earth again.
How does this all fit together – or was it just my sleep clouded brain not yet fully functioning? Let me try to make some sense of it.
- There is no “pot of gold” – chasing after illusory fortunes is a waste of time and effort. Work hard at writing and the rewards will come. Quite often I find that just the process of writing a well crafted story, article or poem has its own intrinsic reward. Too often we only look for recognition from others (“fame”) and monetary gain (“fortune”) . Sometimes merely to write is its own reward.
- The rainbow was there as a promise of God’s compassion, not a warning. He will provide for me. No amount of worrying whether a publisher will accept my writing, or fretting over my readers’ reactions will change them. So why worry?
- Rainbows are always formed by rain falling. Into every life some tears will fall like heavy rain drops in a tropical storm. Sometimes those tears are bitter, sometimes sad, sometimes fearful and often in disappointment. But just as every storm blows over, every rain front dissipates, so too will that heavy cloud be driven away. Then the sun can shine and the rainbow burst into full colour.