Thursday, August 13, 2009

NOT THAT OLD SONG AND DANCE AGAIN . . .

Chesterton once wrote in the Illustrated London News, “The sentence ran something like this: ‘The time will come when communicating with the stars will seem t us as ordinary as answering the telephone.’ To which I answer, by way of a beginning: ‘Yes, that is what I object to.’ Now, if you could say to me: ‘The time will come when answering the telephone will seem to us as extraordinary as communicating with the remote stars . . .’ then I should admit that you were a real, hearty, hopeful, encouraging progressive.”

There is a certain sadness in that today’s innovation is tomorrows humdrum. Once I was in the kitchen when my young nephew came in, put something in the microwave and then collapsed against the machine and moaned, “Oh! I wish they would invent something that would make food more quickly!” Good thing he did not have to begin by killing the cow.

It seems to be human nature to grow “used to” things. I suppose people who live next to Niagara Falls never look at it. “Oh. That? That’s the falls. Nice huh? What do you want to watch on T.V.?” Even the Eucharist can fall prey to this. Unfortunately even spouses.

It does not have to be that way though. It takes a certain mind set – a spiritual practice to see everything new each morning. It may sound a bit corny but it is true that the tree outside is never the same tree twice – especially if you life in Ohio. There will always be something new about it – or at least something in it that can be appreciated. It takes the discipline to see the thing or person in the moment and to be appreciative of it.

Some people accuse me of being a Luddite. There may be a little truth to that accusation. Most of my clocks including my wristwatches are of the wind up variety. I am much more impressed with my ’46 Plymouth than I am with my 2000 Buick. I like fountain pens. I am horrible with them, but I like them. (Does anybody else end up with black fingers after using one? What on earth am I doing wrong?) But it really isn’t that I am opposed to quartz clocks, ballpoint pens, or iphones. I use many of these things. I think I am just not ready for them yet. I am still utterly amazed by the gears and mechanics of these older things. There is a victrola upstairs and I am completely fascinated that it can play a record without electricity. I still prefer my CDs most of the time (already a passing technology – sheesh) but I am more impressed by the ingenuity of the old beast.

It is not that the newer things are not incredibly clever things – even more so than these other devices – but that I am simply not ready for them yet. I am still amazed by the older versions and am not ready to be amazed by the new. I try to cultivate that in my spirituality – being amazed by the Eucharist – the Mass - by confession – by Christ’s teaching trying to hear them for the first time every time. Every day trying to appreciate anew the parish, the people, the neighborhood.

It’s bologna to say that I have got it down – but when it works it makes life so much grander. There is no need for something great and unique to happen every day when you can rightly appreciate what is there. More people have gadgets, resources, and means of mobility than any civilization has had ever and maybe will ever have again – who knows? How sad is for those who do not learn to enjoy and appreciate what is as best they can as opposed to what is not obtained yet.

8 comments:

Pat said...

Our two cars are standard shifts--not easy to find nowadays in the domestic car market. I even got my son "hooked" on driving a standard. (I told him that he needed to learn in case he ever got a job as a valet at a fancy restaurant--and he actually got to drive some very expensive sports cars because of it). I had my parents' 1948 Crosley radio restored to working condition. (Know anybody that can help with the record player side?) And we wrote with fountain pens in 4th grade, but they were the kind that used ink cartridges (does that count?).

Elena said...

Father, when you put that pen on the paper you have to write quickly! You can't ponder as well with a fountain pen - which is why I prefer the computer!

Fr. V said...

Nor is it as easy to hit the delete button and start over.

Anonymous said...

Great meditation (again), Father. Thanks!

Grant said...

Hi Fr. V. I love watching those old mechanics as well.. there's something quite amazing about watching old those gears working so closely and perfectly together. But I think maybe the reason I don't appreciate the newer stuff as much is because circuits are so much better at doing more complex stuff but hiding it. You can't look at a circuit board and see the electricity shooting from one point to another...

Adrienne said...

I have a cell phone I rarely even turn on (it's a very plain jane model) and I write with a fountain pen.

Father - you need a bit better fountain pen to not end up with ink on your fingers. I use a Cross for everyday stuff and my Mom's Sheaffer from the 1920's for all my "special" writing. If you do have a good pen and it is giving you problems my "pen guru" is Ron Zorn in Syracuse, NY (Main Street Pens.) He did a fabulous job with my old Scheaffer.

Anyway - I completely agree with your post. I hate to see people walking around with phones plugged to their heads when a beautiful world is being ignored...

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh (at myself) because I am reading this at 6:30 am on my Iphone.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

I was speaking to an elderly lady the other day and the conversation turned to new gadgets and inventions.

"Oh ..." she said, "nostalgia isn't what it used to be. We didn't have all these contraptions in my young days. They'll be needing a satelite navigation system to find the toilet in their own homes next!"