Friday, 13 August 2010

More communications

The morning after I blogged about modern communications, the Thought for the Day on Today resonated with my theme. I've copied the text below (probably in contravention to the BBC copyright – sorry about that!) and you can hear John Bell by going to the BBC web site and searching on the date 11/08/2010. If you'd like a copy of the podcast, e-mail me.

I'm sorry if I'm an avid BBC R4 listener – but things are getting worse: my son-in-law now reluctantly admits to listening to it in the car (he says 'occasionally')

John Bell's Thought:

After hearing the news yesterday I realised that I possibly broke the law last Friday.

I managed to spy on someone else's mobile phone.

It's now an increasingly frequent phenomenon. Fraudsters can tap into the range of information stored on mobiles and then run amok with the owner's credit facilities. Or they may choose to interfere with private correspondence. Or, via satellite communication, they may be able to identify the location of the owner at any given time.

In my defence, I didn't do anything so devious. I just observed data. And I did it in the comfort of the Royal Albert Hall during a stunning performance of Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto.

Other people were doing it too: my friend on my right and a woman on my left were equally distracted by the mobile in the row in front. We saw family photographs and text messages. Then we watched the phone's owner type in the word WASTED, enlarge it and show his handiwork to his two companions; this during the slow movement.

Had these been teenagers, it might have been excusable. But they were affluent young business types besotted, I suggest, with self-importance - a phenomenon greatly aided and abetted by the possession of this type of technology.

For if my diary, my address book, my emails, my text messages, my credit facilities are all available at the flick of a switch anywhere and at any time I want, my self-esteem is bound to rise. I must be an important person... so important that if I wish, in a public place like a concert hall, to see who has texted me in the past ten minutes, then I should do so, irrespective of whether my miniature lit screen and murmurs of approval annoy or distract those around me.

There is no denying the abundant advantages of a mobile phone, but who is in charge - it or me?

In one of his books, the late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom commented that if the telephone rang when he was praying, he simply asked God to get the caller to phone back if it was important.

What his Russian Orthodox faith did - in common with other religious and ethical beliefs - was to convince him that he was not the indispensable centre of the universe. A fulfilled life is not one where we are constantly wired up. It is one in which there is a time to disengage, to stand and stare, to relate face to face with others, to be taken in by great music... and thus to be taken out of ourselves.

I sometimes wonder whether, were Jesus around today, he might slightly amend one of his most famous observations and say, "You cannot serve God (or humanity) and Narcissus."

copyright 2010 BBC

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