Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ash Wednesday: Connection.

Today's topic for the photo-a-day Lenten spiritual practice was 'connection.'

My choice of picture for the day possibly looks a bit mundane and facetious, but it's actually not, not really (though if it were mundane or facetious that would probably be okay - it won't surprise you to know I don't think religion has to be gloomy).

But yesterday when I was packing to come away for two nights, I was thinking how good it is that we don't now have to pack shedloads of books for even a short journey, because we have Kindles and the like, and then I realised that I now pack quite a heap of electrical chargers when I go away for even one night (netbook, phone, Kindle-and-dongle).

And while on the one hand that's probably a terrible modern morality tale about how tied we all are to our technology, the reason we're tied to our technology is pretty much that it keeps us connected.  I bring all that stuff with me so that I can be in touch with my friends while I'm away.  I like my friends.  I think it's a plus that I don't have to miss them or not know what's going on.

I get people's reservations about social media, honestly I do.  Though, I guess the people who have those reservations aren't here to hear me graciously tell them so.

But I like Facebook - it's just how it is.  I find it amusing, and I like finding out what people I know are up to, and getting to know people I don't know well.  Because I firmly believe you can get to know people well over social media.

I have friends who I haven't seen for years, but who still feel close to me and are still important to me (Alice and Ryan, I'm talking to you).

I have made friends over Facebook who have become for-real friends.

A few years ago on a Facebook page about Antonia Forest books, I got to know Aileen.  We wouldn't have known each other otherwise, and I grew to love Aileen very much.  I met her, twice, and I'm very glad of it, but had we not met in real life, Aileen is still one of the people I would have counted as very dear to me.  Aileen died a few years after I got to "know" her, and I was honoured and moved beyond words that her beautiful partner Pam asked me to read at her funeral.

In Aileen's last few days of life, Facebook played host to what I can honestly only describe as a vigil.  It felt real.  It felt palpable.  People talked about her, and prayed for her, and let Pam know that they were both in the thoughts of a lot of people, and that they were being held in love.  The "people of the wall" connected over their love and admiration of Aileen.

And I now count Pam as a friend, and Aileen's friends Rose and John . . . I wouldn't have known them without Aileen, and I wouldn't have known Aileen without Facebook.

That was not the internet making for a sense of disconnectedness and loneliness.  That was the internet working in a very real way to connect hearts and souls.

When my father was dying, and when he died, and in the odd time after the death of someone you love, Facebook let me stay in touch with everyone who might care, and to ask for, and get, support and prayers, without having to ring round or text everyone.  And believe me, it helped.

Connections are good.  Complicated little bits of plastic and rubber and wire are good (those sentences are connected.  The last one might sound dodgy, but I just mean computer cables . . . )

And the first 24-hours of no-sugar have been mostly fine.  I'm a bit cowed by a friend who not only started a week ago but is also not doing fruit or bread, but that's fine, that's her practice.  I successfully negotiated the tricky "St Hilda's college has really good hot chocolate at breakfast time" hurdle, and the orange juice was delicious.  I did catch myself thinking "I want to go to the cinema, but I can't have popcorn or a drink . . . " but then realised it is actually legal not to (note:  when I do have those things at the cinema I buy them before I go in.  Saves a fortune).  And the film (The Book Thief - does the book justice) was fine with an accompaniment of water.

And I might well have had the slight headache anyway.

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