It was my mother’s dream to have a log house, and my father built her one in Possum Holler, in the rolling hills of northern Alabama. You’d have trouble finding that name on a map, but it’s the place I grew up alongside the peach and pecan trees my Dad planted in front of the house. I didn’t see very many Opossums there, but it was a Hollow in the mountains, so that fits. There was a lake as well, and a small cave to explore, and a sinkhole, and the forest on the mountain behind us was basically endless. I would certainly have gotten lost several times in those woods, if I hadn’t had our dog along to show me the way home. She always knew, and I learned to trust her, even when I thought she was wrong.
Notre Dame burned yesterday.
I haven’t heard an official story as to why, but accident or arson, the result is the same: A beautiful landmark destroyed, and the world in mourning.
I’m in mourning, too, even though I’m not French, not Catholic, and have never even seen the Cathedral except in pictures. It’s still awful to think of more than eight centuries of history going up in smoke, awful to see a masterwork of our ancestors so terribly damaged, awful to see one of the irreplaceable treasures of Europe’s cultural inheritance consumed in ash and flame.
When groups of people live together on the same piece of earth, we have to learn how to get along. Granted, we’re often not very good at it, but even if we spend a lot of time arguing, we still need each other and depend on each other quite a bit more than we’d usually like to admit. And that’s not all: we also influence each other quite a bit more than we’d usually like to admit. Oddly enough, you can even see this in what we choose to argue about and the arguments that we use.
In last week’s post I lamented the growing number of areas where we are losing the opportunity to interact with humans. I called it “I miss talking to strangers” because I’ve started to realise that human interaction, even when brief, is a precious thing that helps us all remember who we are. When convenient machines rob me of that, the loss is real. I really do miss talking to strangers.
In the days following the post, your comments got me thinking further: what about the opportunities that remain? Yes, our culture is shifting from conversation to convenience, but as long as there are other people, interaction will continue on some level. Is it possible that even while I’m missing the old social ways of doing things, I could also be missing chances to speak to the humans around me? It is, and I do. Too often, I miss talking to strangers, not because of machines and screens, but because I simply forget to see them.
I remember the first time our family got a touchscreen. It was an early GPS model (the kind you had to buy map updates for), but I was too young to drive, so what stood out to me was the touchscreen. I’d seen Star Trek, so I knew what to do. I just never guessed that I would live to see the day when McDonalds had more touchscreens than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Screens for ordering, screens for keeping children entertained at the tables, screens for displaying menus, and don’t forget the personal communication devices everyone carries everywhere. Captain Kirk would be impressed.
These days, the world is literally at our fingertips, connected like never before. We can get instant updates on just about everything – live sports scores from New Zealand, political manoeuvring in Washington or Brussels, and what our holiday-making friends are eating or drinking – right now.
There’s a gateway to all this excitement sitting in my pocket, and it’s vibrating…
Ten years ago today, I got on an airplane in Washington DC with my pregnant wife and one year old son, and we all left the only country we’d ever lived in. The airport was busy with people heading the other direction: it was Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, 2009. A couple of meals and movies later, we landed in Ireland. We were met at the airport by coworkers, and on the way home we stopped at Pizza Hut. During the meal, my wife noticed that we had left the diaper bag in the trunk. No problem, our coworker was happy to get the nappy bag out of the boot. We looked at each other and knew: it might be Pizza Hut, but it was definitely not America!
There was a time last year when my lungs started going on strike. Every breath became a rattling effort, and time only seemed to make it worse. So, like any sane person who can’t breath, I went to the doctor. She told me I had pneumonia, but was quick to add that she was very accepting of my unique breathing style and would support me in my new lifestyle. Then she sent me home.
The coming of Santa is good news, as we all know. Homes with alarm systems and bolted doors still welcome a visit from the jolly old man who lets himself in through the chimney. He’s not taking anything (except milk and cookies), he’s leaving gifts behind. This is good news!
It so happens that “good news” is the definition on the word “gospel”. And though Santa is good news for children everywhere, his gospel does come with a few conditions:
Full confession: I’ve never really liked the song “Baby, it’s cold outside”. I always have found it a bit creepy, and I’d certainly like to keep my children from hearing it enough to start singing along with it on the radio. In other words, I won’t miss it if it goes to the cultural guillotine, as many are calling for.
Still, I have to say, I’m a bit surprised: When did we start caring about song lyrics?