Archive for category Computers and Internet

On Being Sensory and why I don’t ‘hug’ online.

So I was walking home for lunch, and had to slow my stride to a dawdle in order to take in the luminous magenta paintwork on a car, standing out from all the whites and greys and dark greens around it like a red rose in a blue sky.  And as I drifted closer to this intense colour experience, the Roast Station in the food-court called out to me with all the richness of it’s many-flavoured meaty menus.  I paused to drink it in.  Then on I went around the corner where a fresh, sharp wind slapped my office-heating-flushed face alive and made me blink away tears.  It was a concatenation of arresting experiences, one after the other.

I love being alive to these unsophisticated, everyday pleasures.  I love the thrill such simple things give me.  They aren’t particularly meaningful, but they are immediate, unexpected, delights.

But when I was trying to write the title to this post, I struggled for words.  ‘Sensuous’?  ‘Sensual’?  Both words mean what I want to say, but they have become entangled – mostly, I think, due to advertising – with the erotic.  And there’s nothing wrong with eros.  The sensory pleasure of an erotic moment is right up there with the whiff of Richie’s Roasts.  But there’s so much more to being sensuous than sex.  Sex must, inevitably, have some societal sanctions attached to it.  Those sanctions, in our changing society, have become a battleground for competing world-views, and so much truth about sex is forgotten as we wage our ‘culture wars’ that other concepts, like sensuousness, are dragged down with it.  Now it seems like sex is the only sort of sensuous pleasure we still talk about.  And maybe chocolate.

What a pity.

Sensory pleasures, like the ones I described above, are so rich, so free, so easy to access and share, that they should be celebrated much more often.  But we lack the language.  Not just the words, but the very concept.  We need to relearn how to immerse ourselves into the goodness of creation around us.  We need to come alive again to the value of what we hear away from the jangle and clatter of industrial life, and what we feel beyond our protective fabrics, and what we smell and see and taste.  We are bodily beings and that’s something to celebrate!

And that’s why I refuse to ‘hug’ over the internet.  Internet interactions are great for the cerebral, but pathetic for what is fully human.   This morning on social media one of my acquaintance reposted a banner that said she needed a hug, and I could ‘hug’ her by reposting the banner.  I get that she’s lonely.  I get that being single she’s not getting anywhere near the physical affirmation I enjoy myself, immersed as I am in an affectionate family.  But I also get that reposting that banner will do practically nothing about that.  The initial author of the banner might be gratified by multitudinous repostings, and my acquaintance might (did) get some positive written responses, but did she get hugged?  No.  A hug is wonderful.  When my son or daughter wraps their arms around me and squeezes and holds me, I know I’m being loved.  It’s a bodily thing.

I don’t want us to stop expressing our regard for one another in non-physical forums, but nor do I want us to delude ourselves into thinking we can be human if we cut ourselves off from our bodily experiences.  In an increasingly touch-phobic/techno-centred society (see we need more touching, not less.  We need to be more sensory, not less.  And we need to listen to and understand what our own senses tell us about what is good, what is enough, what is too much, and what is not enough.

'Far Away' XKCD comic by Randal Munroe

This isn’t saying that we should be dominated or controlled by our senses.  We can – and sometimes must – consciously endure sensory unpleasantness for greater goals; I need to defer my sexual desires out of respect for others.  I need to pass by the sweet-smelling fruit on the grocers stall and not just help myself.  I need to suffer the physical pain of a needle prick in order to give blood.  These are not pleasant sensations – but they are easily bearable given the vast range of pleasant sensory experiences I enjoy elsewhere.  Yes, we are far more than sensory, but we are certainly no less than, and enjoying sensory experiences in no way means that we lose control of our actions.  Let’s not expect ourselves, or those around us, to live in a state of sensory deprivation.  Let’s touch one another, and shower sensory blessings upon each other; give gifts of fragrant flowers, soft cloths, rich foods, and luminous colour.

Maybe then, when we acknowledge and enjoy the full range of positive sensory experience that is available to us every day, we will be less overwhelmed by the porn/violence/gluttony industries.

Go on, be a world-changer.  Really hug someone you love today.


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Catching the Wind

Nearly three years ago I started this blog because I was moved by a particular act of mercy and saw in it something special about God (Check out the “In Honour of a Butterfly” entry from the second box on the right for the full story) and a blog seemed an appropriate place to record what I saw.  So I began, and I’ve tried to write at least once a month.  Usually I would get a half-dozen readers each week and that was fine.  Then, last week, I began getting dozens of visitors to my web-site each day because it is on the ‘Window’s Live’ network, and they’ve just launched a new version of their search engine which prioritizes sites on their own network; and so my fairly meagre blog is right in the middle of a new and unexpected flow of interest from throughout cyberspace.  It’s like a small town hot-dog stand just had a main highway built right alongside, and is now selling hundreds instead of dozens of hot-dogs per week. 

Have I done anything different? No.  I just did what I did at the time and tried to make sure that it was worth doing.  The conditions changed and my blog benefits.  Hopefully what’s on it will be helpful and someone else will benefit too.

And the point is?  That despite our best efforts we have very little control over the conditions in which we work.  The winds of economic change blow and our small yachts are easily swamped – or given a burst of exhilarating speed – or frustratingly becalmed.  What matters is not our ‘success’ or ‘failure’ given that most of the time this is dependent on factors far outside our control, but how we respond to the weather we’re given.  And just as that applies to our health, to our finances, and to our sporting successes, it applies also to our spiritual life.  “The wind (Spirit) blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” said Jesus.  He was right.  When things are going well, we need to give thanks to God, rather than claim the credit.  When things are not so good, we need to simply stay faithful to the task at hand, and wait for the wind to come in due course.

If I had never started this blog, I would never have been here to catch this particular flow of cyber-interest.  Sometimes we simply need to begin building a boat in the desert and wait for the rain.


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A confession

This webpage isn’t entirely honest; it lies (a little) by omission.
For instance, I’ve just been reading a web-page that I visit regularly, but you won’t find it in the list of web-pages down on the right of this column ("Where I’m Going on the Web").
Essentially the reason for this is that I send the address for this page in almost every email as part of my signature.  My emails go, sometimes as a mass mailout, to most of the families of our church, and a number of friends and family with children.  I wouldn’t want to send them a link to a page that has links to pages that have ‘R’ rated content or links to ‘R’ rated content.  You won’t see, for instance, a link to ‘You-Tube’ because people do post all sorts of things up there.  The pages I’ve listed are ones that I’ve checked for their links, and so I know that people aren’t going to end up in some strange place in cyber-space if they click a link in my emails.  That’s important. 
But I do want to acknowledge that not everything I read, think, or do ends up on this page.  Some things ought not make it onto a family-friendly web site.  And sometimes my life is not family-friendly.  Sometimes the things I read or see or become involved with are not family-friendly.  I don’t want anything here that I wouldn’t be comfortable to find my 10 year-old reading. 
So there it is.  This page isn’t quite complete in all its details.
And for the record, that page I was just reading?  It was recommended to me by the principal of a bible college.  It is a collection of mostly secular ‘confessions’ sent in on postcards and updated every Sunday.  Deeply moving, tragic, inspiring, banal, erotic, frighening, uplifting, comic… in a word, human.  One way of keeping in touch with what’s going on in the hearts of real people.

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Flattering contact

Dear Sarah18kq
You sent me a message from your ‘Windows Live’ account to mine here.  You were flattering, saying you’d looked at my profile, you’d liked what you’d seen and wanted to have some contact because I seemed pretty nice, maybe even cute.  You invited me to look at some more photos of you on another social networking site, and the photo accompanying your message – a stunningly beautiful young woman in a white bikini – was maybe intended as a teaser?  You asked for me to respond, so that you’d know if I wanted to chat, and we could ‘be friends’.
I deleted your message.  I did not answer.
What is in my profile that might have gained your attention?
Merely a middle-aged man.
There was a great deal on my page – but you don’t mention reading anything except my profile.

I looked at your spaces site.  There was nothing there beyond your profile photo.
What do I conclude from all this? 
That you aren’t particularly interested in me as a person.
Perhaps that you aren’t real. 
Because what did you want from me?
That I look at some more photos of you
and that I reply to you.
And that would establish that I exist
and maybe I would see some things I would rather not see.
And maybe I could then be persuaded
or enticed
into seeing some more
and maybe even paying for the ‘privilege’.
Dear Sarah18kq
Maybe I am being terribly suspiscious and unjust.  In this sort of situation I think it is warranted.  If I am wrong, I am deeply sorry.  If I’m right, you won’t be sending me any further messages, but nor will you be reading this.

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Love and gifts

Last Sunday someone posted this on a website designed to allow people to share their secrets.  A gift of diamonds worth almost $US 20 000.00 isn’t enough to convince her that she is loved.

My first response was that there was something wrong with her.  She must suffer from some complex that told her she wasn’t loveable, and nothing anyone does can convince her otherwise – even the most extravagant gifts. 

But then on second thoughts, I realised that maybe there’s more to it than that.  This could be a text-book case of people speaking two different love languages, and tragically miscommunicating; he expresses (and desires) love through gifts, and she some other way; words of affirmation, perhaps. 

And then there’s the final possibility; that she really isn’t loved. 

Because ultimately, a gift doesn’t cut it.  Not if there really isn’t any love behind it.  The gift that really matters is not some rope of diamonds, but the person of the giver themselves.  This is what makes God’s love the ultimate touchstone of reality; not only does he give us gifts (talents, creation) but he also gives us himself, over and over, and ultimately in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

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