Place and community

Books, Inq.: Read ye, read ye …

I have just returned from an evening of mixed pleasure and pain: a concert at my daughter’s local primary school. The concert was in a good cause, for the British Heart Foundation, but there was a lot to endure for the three songs I saw and heard her sing as part of the choir.

During the gaps (i.e. other children’s solo performances of varying degrees of quality), my mind was free to wander — an enforced space where I could not read or do anything execpt sit and think. I thought about the connections I have made since beginning blogging: the very good friends I’ve made as well as the "acquaintances of ideas" I regularly meet on my trips brokered by Bloglines.

The concert was an enforced, and unusual, period of quiet after a week’s work and at the end of a Saturday spent doing the end-of-week domestic tasks and errands, admiring progress on the ongoing Colorado River project (let me tell you, this is a very, very long river indeed), and so on.

As I sat listening to the out-of tune soloists and the fumbling fingers of the pianists, adored by the parents concerned and politely tolerated by the rest of the audience, I reflected on how agonised I might have been had I been sitting in that seat six months ago. My thoughts would have been rushing round in my mind, worrying at things beyond my control. I reflected on a stress-management course I attended last summer, and what I learned there about slowing down, appreciating the small things, learning to accept and to be, in an attempt to control the restless escalation of various internal crises. How the perceptive psychologist there defined me as having "relaxation-induced anxiety", and how I’m working on that. (Honest!)

My young daughter rose with her fellow choristers for the final song. It was Lennon and McCartney’s "Let it Be":

"And when the broken-hearted people,
Living in the world agree,
there will be an answer,
Let it be."

The tears poured down my face at these simple words. Just let it be, I tell myself, let it be.

We walked home; Malcolm and the girls went upstairs to watch the latest episode of Planet Earth (featuring tonight, I am just told, the Colorado River). Downstairs alone, I switched on my computer for the first time today, and there is this wonderful, generous posting from Frank (Wilson), linking to my placeism post — not just generous but "getting it" in his usual economical, on-the-nail style; writing of the "connectiveness" and sense of community he has encountered by the unconventional means of blogging. Also, I have come home to an email from Dave (Lull), sending me some links on "slowing down", and writing in terms of the "hurry sickness". Here is someone else who really "gets it".

Yes, it is wonderful to have such friends, generous and intuitive. Thank you.

I feel Frank is completely right when he writes about the international community of bloggers: "And this connectiveness I think may turn out to have great power." For me as an individual, I feel the power. This is an extraordinary thing for me to admit: I could not have anticipated it back in December, and I am not the kind of person to "feel stuff" in this way 😉 . I have taken refuge in science and pragmatism in part, at least, because it is (in my mind) a safe refuge. I am an eldest child, living with an eldest child, in a serious and responsible environment we have created for our children. I believe in duty and stoicism, and am usually dutiful and stoical — or at least, as much as I can be. Yet I’m feeling this power. I can’t analyse it and have no idea where it will go on the large scale (like Frank, I feel that it is so powerful at the individual and small-group level that it must evolve into something on a larger scale). Perhaps the effects will be similar to the society-changing effect of mass introduction of TV. This new power, however arises from not only being a mass media like TV but by being an open, interactive system, controlled at the individual’s level; enabled by information technology, not a passive recipient of it. I sometimes wonder what Orwell would have made of it all.