Friday, 11 November 2011

Trying To Join The Dots

Trying To Join The Dots

  • Last post needs a follow-up. What became of those random acts of charity?
  • I bought a new guitar! Should I go on tour yet? Love listening to U2 and Bruce Cockburn and Phil Keaggy.
  • Sent off a short science fiction story to Analog! Feels good. (Psst... that's because they haven't replied yet, idiot!)
  • Last Friday I went to a spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner at which the speaker, Andy Matheson, educated us about real poverty. Oasis: real action on poverty It made me think, 'That's more real than UN famine statistics on TV.'
  • On Sunday our little church is hosting a local International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. I did some research. Wow, there are a lot of people in this world following Jesus and suffering for it. The dragon is roamin' the earth trying to stamp us out (Revelation chapter 12). But here we are carrying on comfortably. The dragon doesn't need to fight the church over here too much, because we're being anesthetized by a diet of entertainment and fun.
Random Acts of Charity: OK, here are the details. Two of us did indeed stand outside the local shopping 'mall' and give away free hot chocolate and coffee, because the 'Occupy...' protesters weren't out that day as far as I could determine.

The chocolate was more popular. Around here, most people get set up with coffee as part of their routine and carry it around in thermos mugs, or pop into a coffee house drive-through. It was great to see people's faces when we said it was for free and no strings attached. I'd like to think it sparked a flame of charity in some. We'd tell them we were showing a little bit of God's love in a practical way. Like a cryptic sign that leads towards an uncountable treasure. Like a drip of water seeping from a cracked dike.

We may do it again, or something different. Hopefully a few more people will join in and help next time. in fact, did you know there are whole websites named 'Random Acts of Kindness'? There's a lot of it around.

The new guitar: a Takamine steel-stringed wonder with a pickup and a cut-out to help me get to those high notes. Most of the money had been sitting around since my birthday, waiting for somewhere to go. I almost bought an effects pedal, but thought that could wait.

Why buy a new guitar? Well, I left my old one in the Middle East when we left there in March. I'd had it since I was 18, but I don't miss it particularly. It was starting to twang and the frets were getting worn down. I've been borrowing a friend's guitar for a few months. And I've been listening to lots of good music, trying to play along, thinking I'd like to learn some of these well enough to play for people when we're sitting around with nothing better to do. Have a look at this by Bruce Cockburn -
 I followed the notes on how  to play it and, surprise, it's actually not so hard. And I am amazed how he conjures up an atmosphere of someone running away from a lynch mob, and violent injustice in general.

There are songs to warm the heart - U2 have some amazing love songs where you suddenly think, Hold on, he's singing to God - like this one... Magnificent ... songs to rekindle the eternal life that our Creator set inside each of us, rekindle it so that I rediscover what real compassion is about, wanting to do something for those with less choices than me. There are some that make me laugh, like Bruce Cockburn's "Tie Me At The Crossroads When I Die" - here's a cover version of it - Tie Me At The Crossroads -  a funny song about death. So I'd better get practising, if I can just get away from this keyboard!

And the New Science-Fiction Story:  It's called Mindware Issues, and I started it thinking, Why don't I write a quick story to stick on my blog? Then it developed, and I thought, why not try to get it published? Sorry!  :-( But I started by throwing two types of future technology together and building characters and a plot around them.

While I was researching how computers might interface with the brain, I found that some scientists are already trying it - particularly in order to help disabled people. Some are already talking about Body Area Networks,  wikipedia - BANs where the skin conducts data to and from tiny body-mounted devices. So I just stretched that and imagined the standard SF 'What-if...?'.

The other tech component was pocket universes. I read a novel or two, years ago, where people hopped from one artificial universe to another and thought that was cool. I looked into it and it's based on advanced physics called Brane theory (yes, I spelled that correctly - not Brain theory). It's in wikipedia so it must be real! Brane Theory - Wikipedia Real physicists please stop reading here! Think of a thin, stretched-out membrane. That has two dimensions. You could get another membrane and bring it close enough to touch the first one. Now imagine our universe as a three-dimensional membrane (well, four if you include time). The theory says that there could be a multitude of other such universes, nearby in the multi-dimensional space that the theories predict. What if two of these 'branes' touched? Or what if someone invented a way of stretching out a new brane, still attached to ours? Anyway, it's still pretty far-fetched in modern terms.

But the story developed, and I saw how the misuse of computer networks connected to one's mind could cause all sorts of dilemmas and impossible choices. I don't want just to write about some fancy technological device, but about what that will mean for people like you and me when we pick it up and turn it on. In 'Mindware Issues' the main character has to decide if he'll sacrifice his cherished goal of freedom for someone else's life and wellbeing, whether or not he will do the right thing.

So all these seemingly random threads are running through my one life. It's hard to hold them all together sometimes, but I think the common theme has to be that people are important. The meatballs-and-spaghetti speaker Andy Matheson I mentioned says that in fact people are important because God made us all in his likeness, and that predates the infamous 'Fall' of Adam and Eve. 'God's Image' is the first and best framework to see each other in, not simply 'Lost Sinner'. Yes, we all make bad choices from time to time, often deliberately, maybe because 'it feels good', but where did that ability to choose come from? Who gave us the choice? And I can encourage people to choose life and not death (by giving them a free cup of coffee? by singing them a good song?) and I can write about those crucial choices that are the crux of any good story.

Phew. That was long. But now I'm all caught up here. Post a comment, someone :- witnessed any Random Acts recently? Read or watched any great stories about making the right choice? Heard any life-changing songs?