It has been a very strange week. On Monday my computer which has stood me in good stead for several years died. It wouldn’t start and after a morning trying to find a solution I had to admit defeat, it wasn’t going to revive. Subsequently, after trying to get the hard disks copied onto an external drive it became clear they were totally defunct and couldn’t be repaired. All the information on them was lost. Fortunately, I had backed them up some time ago so only recent material has been lost. Then my iPad started playing up and things started to go wrong with it. I have a second smaller iPad which was working although after one day it stopped receiving emails and when I sent an email it disappeared but wasn’t delivered. To replace the defunct computer I ordered a new one which arrived on Tuesday: having ordered it on Monday I thought this was pretty good going. I was quite pleased with myself when I got the new computer up and running in less than an hour and was able to use and access my emails. Then as I was using it I discovered something I was trying to activate wouldn’t work. Eventually, I rang the manufacturer’s help desk and after explaining the problem the phone went dead! I went through this exercise again and the very helpful man in the help centre listened to my problem took the model number and the phone went dead, again! Each time I rang I was held in a queue with the very worst of piped music that kept stopping and starting which made an annoying experience even more irritating, I began the third explanation of why I was calling by saying what had happened on the first two calls. This gentleman was very apologetic and listened patiently to why I was calling, took the model number and a few moments later explained the programme I was looking for had to be added as an extra to the computer when making an order. I drew his attention to the specification on the company web site where the programme I was looking for was clearly described. He put the phone down. I contacted customer care and have arranged for the computer to be returned. I have now purchased a second computer and as I write this everything seems fine.
Why am I telling you all my woes of the week? For one thing, it is good therapy to share problems. Secondly; because I have once again been surprised and a little unsettled by how frustrated these things make me. At the beginning of lockdown, there was a report of a teenager becoming ragingly angry because his iPhone failed and he was unable to get it repaired because of the COVID 19 restrictions. At the time I thought he was overreacting but this week proved me wrong. Technology is great until it goes wrong at which point we realise it is more than a tool, it has an emotional grip which is difficult to resist.
On a much bigger scale is the disruption caused by the present crisis. Routines and habits which were taken for granted are suddenly stopped and our living environments become much smaller. The scenes on the beaches and in the parks during the recent hot weather where huge crowds gathered apparently unconcerned about the health risks from the virus are indicative of the frustrations many people have struggled with during the lockdown period.
Human beings are made for relationships: human relationships and a relationship with the living God. Take those away and we become dysfunctional. Many people live a normal life without including God so there will always be an element of dysfunction. This dysfunction is seen in society as a whole but also in the way relationships between people can become so fractious. What I have been reminded of this week is that over ten years I have developed a relationship with a machine; a relationship of dependence. This happens not just with IT but with cars, TV’s, mobile phones or anything we subconsciously come to depend on to add value to our lives.
I pray that during this very strange experience many people will have been given the opportunity to redefine their values and priorities for life. I pray that what we hear of the number tuning into church services on the web is correct and this will have a lasting impact and effect on those people when we return to some form of normality. I pray that in the post COVID days the church is ready to share the message of Christ with people who are seeking answers to big questions.