Sunday, July 1, 2012

Handicapped by progress?

July 1, 2012

Dear friends,

This week a friend graciously gave me his expert assistance in order to do some much needed technological house-keeping. Our goals while he was here included: purchase a new mobile phone; purchase an i-Pad; purchase a recorder and install program that links recorder with my PC; clean up and upgrade my PC; set up a new e-mail address; locate and send a number of old manuscripts to safe storage in a cloud; identify and learn the basic skills necessary to function within this new structure and to utililize these new pieces of equipment.

All of this required me to function “left-handed,” so to speak. None of the thinking or language required for these tasks reflects my native tongue or my intuitive sense of reality. However, my friend is both an expert and a kind and skillful teacher. Had he not been both the week would have proven a disaster. But to my amazement (and his too, I suspect, if the truth were told—smiles!), we reached some minimum progress on each goal.

Friday afternoon my friend and his wife left to spend the week-end with family in a near-by town. The house seemed empty and quiet after they left. Miss Annie inspected each room carefully, then, satisfied that her world was still intact, settled for a nap on the couch. I wandered around a bit, somewhat at odds with myself and not clear why.

“It has been a productive, relationally rich week,” I lectured myself. “Now relax and rest a while.”

But after sitting for some restless minutes in my red chair, I realized that inwardly I was still journeying back from that world in which clouds do not describe atmosphere and bites represent not portions of food but measurement of space.

What makes significance in this information making world in which I have taken out a visitor's visa? How does it differ from the boundaries of significance in the world that to me speaks home?

Prior to the week of the Great Technological Housecleaning, I had been thinking about the importance of mercy in relationships, and the ways in which forgiveness and mercy interweave. My tattered old copy of Shakespeare lay open to Portia’s speech (Merchant of Venice):

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

I picked up the yellowed pages and began reading aloud with only sleeping Annie to hear. The measured cadence and the ancient dignity of words moved slowly into the silence. Most of you will remember Portia’s argument:

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

And then I paused. A half-formed insight helped me begin to understand my uneasiness. This week has left me unsure that I can ever master this new machinery at a level that will permit my mind to think of content while I perform the process.

I can readily see Shakespeare in my mind’s eye, barely conscious of the pen in his hand, writing furiously with no awareness at all of penmanship as the powerful truth he knew moved into words: “. . . consider this, that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.”

I wonder if unconsciously his pen gave the word none a darker script. I tend to read the line with a slight emphasis there. My printed copy gives no clue.

But my concern does not lie in subtleties of emphasis; it lies in the shaping of thought itself. Does the mechanism with which I write shape the boundaries of what I think? Do I write only what I can make the machine say?

Musing with you about the dilemmas of those of us who were not born digital.

See you next week.


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