During the period of lockdown many people reminisced and reflected. Even those kept busy with unexpected levels of childcare and home schooling found themselves indulging in moments of remembering ‘what it was like’ when things were ‘normal’. One of the phrases that has been used over and over again is about the unique nature of what we have been living through. This reference to ‘uniqueness’, coupled with my own reflections and reminiscences has led me to ponder on what we really have experienced in 2020.
First, I should say that I believe that every moment is unique, it does not take an international pandemic to give something the status of being ‘special’. Every moment of every day has the potential of being momentous, but that depends on what we do with the time we are given to walk this earth. In my lifetime there have been many, many ‘unique’ moments; there have been many, many times when history has been changed by words, actions, inventions and discoveries. Each of those have changed the world irreversibly, but did any of us notice what we were living through at the time? Were we sufficiently aware of the world around us, or did we remain resolutely focused on our own priorities? Did we celebrate the wonder of human ingenuity, or did we turn our negative attribute of greed into the driving force behind our ‘need’ to acquire the newest, the latest gadget or gimmick without any thought of what had been achieved?
In my lifetime the personal calculator was invented, developed and brought to the mass market. That burst upon the world when I was in my early teens. Today we just ask Siri to solve the sum for us, then we were delighted that we no longer had to grapple with our slide rules (sic.). At about the same time cassette recorders opened up a whole new world of personal entertainment. Those miraculous machines would develop into the Walkman (sic.) and then the iPod, and now just another app on our smart phones. Cassette recorders came and went in my lifetime.
Most of us now have access to a personal computing device of some sort. This used to be the stuff of science fiction, now it is considered to be the norm. Again, when I was in my teens, there was a great dispute in London because one of the boroughs took two houses out of its council house (sic.) stock so that it could install a computer that would only run its payroll. There is an app on our smart phones for that now.
In my lifetime humanity felt it had ‘conquered’ space by getting a man to walk on the moon. Most of the life-changing inventions I have already mentioned were bi-products of that one particular endeavour, as were other things like the domestic aluminium foil we wrap our turkeys in at Christmas.
Then, of course, came the mobile phone. The transition from the latest fashion accessory to essential and constant companion has been rapid and unstoppable. The computing power we carry in our pockets was even beyond the fantasies of science fiction aficionados. Just look at old sci-fi movies – no one has anything even remotely like our mobile phones! All of these were ‘unique’ moments of global significance. Despite what it sounds like, they have all been contained within just fifty of humanity’s hundreds of thousands of years of existence. But … how many of us noticed what was going on as we joined the queue to acquire each of those, and many more, new ‘things’?
Two thousand years ago a unique moment changed the history of humanity. Just outside the wall of a busy city in the Middle East a man was brutally executed. On one level it was just another day and he was just another victim of a brutal regime. But … that moment was different because that man was the Son of God. His death on earth was a moment when God reconciled our greedy, self-interested nature with his loving grace for us all. Today, after all that time we are still invited to share in that moment, just as we are still invited to share in and celebrate the many moments when human ingenuity has used God’s grace to inspire and direct our journey into a more comfortable way of living.
This month I invite you to do just that – to sit and recall and give thanks. Our God has given us a wonderful life, let us celebrate that and never forget it.
Revd Stephen Buckman