This last week I have spent about three hours on the computer trying to ‘do something’. We have switched providers for our main server. So now, when I want to send something to the 167 people on our ‘contacts’ list, the service provider ‘blocks’ them, saying ‘Too many people.’ So It is possible to send all our contacts to the server, but then the group of 167 people is not kept as a ‘group’. That means re-creating the ‘group’ at the server end. More time! As well, the server puts the e.mail address into a different ‘field’ from the one it needs, so I can’t use this system yet anyway! The other solution, which I’m not happy about is to divide the ‘group’ into sections, and send out info piecemeal. This too has its problems because Google has unilaterally decided to block some of the mail, again because there are multiple addresses in the list. This is all because of ‘spam’: mail that comes from people who have thousands of e.mails to send, in the hope that some of them will be answered. In fact we changed servers because of the bad reputation for sending on ‘spam’ of our previous internet service provider. What used to be an operation that took one minute, is now taking up hours of time, trying to find ‘work-arounds’.
I heard of a similar thing about compost. In Villeneuve, there used to be a big skip where we could put compost. The government wants to encourage us to compost food scraps etc., in order to reduce the burning of rubbish. All good. So the skip in Villeneuve is for private, domestic use. This was abused by some people who either did not put their scraps in the proper, bio-degradable bags, or that commercial firms were using the domestic skip for their compostable waste. So the Commune of Villeneuve moved the skip away! It now lives at their communal déchetterie (rubbish tip) at some distance. Another friend told me that hardly anyone in his building uses compost any more because each time that someone abuses the system, and puts the wrong thing into the compost, and makes work for the sorters, then a special service has to be employed at a cost of SFr. 700.00 per time which then is charged to all the residents.
So here’s some other stories. Many people whom I know spend more and more time, as they age, going to the doctor. It seems as though the order of things is reversed. Life is for ‘doing things’. Staying healthy is the pre-condition for being able to ‘do things’. But I resist the idea that ‘life’ is ‘about’ staying healthy.
‘I love travel,’ I say ‘But I only like travelling to places that I’ve been to before!.’ This is because much of the travel experience is not about ‘doing things’ but about negotiating the means whereby these things can be done!: finding hotels, buying train tickets, getting money, dealing with bureaucracy and so on. At least, having been to a place once, I can go back, knowing how do negotiate all of the process elements of a trip, so that I can then enjoy the ‘trip’.
I am learning French. Each ‘speaking occasion’ is not strictly speaking, an occasion when I ‘speak French’. It is a mixture of my searching for words, wondering about constructions, trying to listen to what someone else is saying, trying to understand what someone else is saying, and on it goes. The learning of ‘French’ consists of going through the book, and doing the exercises. Sooner or later (like after about 500 hrs. work) I will be able to forget about the ‘learning of French’ and concentrate on the ‘living of life’ in another language!
So these stories tell me about two things. The first is about the fact that there are people out there who do not care about the rest of us, and the governmental, communal response to this ‘not caring’ is to make life harder for the rest of us.
Now in the Church, we have decided to keep the building open. This has been a great benefit to a number of people who regularly use the place for its intended purpose. But, we have had some things stolen, and it has cost me some money to replace the stolen items, or to increase our security a little bit, without having to close the church completely. It is important to me that instead of punishing everyone for the sins of a few, we should try to stay ‘open’ to the world, and absorb some of its ‘sin’ while limiting the damage done to us too. Again, the hymn comes to me ‘Yet cheerful he, to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might save.’
But sooner or later there will be consequences, in the divine plan, for the disregard of others that expresses itself in little ways like the sending of ‘spam’ or the carless disposal of compost. Of course there are bigger forms of ‘treating our brothers and sisters as though they were our enemy’ (one definition of ‘sin’) like the corruption of our banking system, or the corruption of work practices, or the underpaying of workers. Sooner or later, in the Christian vision, these things will be stopped, and it will be possible for the ‘lion to lie down with the lamb and the child to play over the viper’s nest.” Until that day, we must ‘manage.’
Learning to ‘manage’ is what going to the doctor, or learning French, or learning to use new technology is about. You know the old phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions.” Time spent reading the instructions is, in one view a waste of time using the tools that one has bought! But on the other hand, reading the instructions makes using the tool that one has bought, over the lifetime of the tool, a very good thing to do. Time spent in ‘doing exercises in a French book’ is time put into an eventual ‘competence in French language.’
Richard Norris has a great quote about the Eucharist in this regard. He says “The Church is a collection of people whose business it is constantly to rehearse a divinely authored play whose first actual, full performance will occur in the Age to Come. What we are abut is learning our parts”.
Each Sunday we come to rehearse the liturgy, which is what life looks like in the Age to Come. We also come to ‘waste’ some time ‘reading the instructions’ and ‘doing exercises in being Christian’ so that when the Age to Come arrives, we will not be on such a steep learning curve.