Over the last hundred years we’ve seen an explosion in the speed and the spread of information. And who knows what’s coming next?
My father was born in 1907, and I recall his stories about being a kid. As a steam train fan, he often went to a local foundry to see locomotives being built and maintained. And when he and his friends once saw a biplane buzzing across the sky, they chased it across town on their bikes to the huge park where hundreds of people were waiting at the only place it could land; because airports did not exist.
Back then mail took weeks to arrive from England or America, and music was only live. If you could not play any instruments yourself, you had to go to see and hear the musicians because recordings were so hard to get. He even described attending gramophone concerts, where the concert hall was filled with music lovers, and the only object on stage was a state of the art wind-up gramophone! To hear all that music and to see no musicians must have been absolutely stunning – at that time.
Drugs were unknown, and the only traffic was on the streets. Both of the cars!
Radio grew from days of crystal sets, with their coils of wire and the cat’s whisker that activated the signal. By the time I arrived the signal was stronger, sourced by valves and electrically powered. But long-distance broadcasts were static-filled experiences. To listen to cricket being played in England was amazing, but it sounded like there was a waterfall beside the commentator!
When television arrived, it was almost a sepia and white experience; and to see repeats today of the grainy images that held our attention then is to marvel at our powers of concentration.
International news footage arrived at the local cinema – a week late. But it showed action of the people or events that we’d barely recognised in earlier newspapers’ ‘special wire service pictures.’
Even before I became a Christian I dreamed of one day writing a help column in magazines or newspapers, but I had no idea how – or even if - it would happen.
It was only five years into full-time pastoral ministry that the opportunity almost attacked me in the dark; and I got started. Writing by hand because typing was a total mystery! After two columns, the editor drew me aside and suggested removing the mystery by learning to type!
I began syndicating by mail, because the internet (or “the information superhighway”) was only a novelty. Editors were generous enough to receive and publish each month’s supply of columns, responding with appropriately-timed payments.
Syndication grew to a coast to coast circulation. Well, one small paper in a Pacific seaside town and another on the Indian Ocean shoreline; while who knows how many millions of people in between never saw my articles. But those millions were probably all treated to syndicated weekly or daily horoscopes: twice the size of my columns – with half the accuracy and even less power to effect the changes they promised!
I never claimed any superior knowledge, except to promise God’s grace for readers anywhere, to work for them and through them, so they may spread that grace around.
Whenever I visited our local editor, I aimed to be clear of his deadlines, so we could talk over any issues. I enjoyed picking up his insights and his angles; and sometimes he opened up personally.
One day he met me with a huge grin on his face. I wondered if I’d done anything to produce his happiness, but without a word he motioned me to a chair.
“You wouldn’t believe it!” he chucled. “But I’ve just heard that the astrologer who supplies our weekly horoscopes took her son with her all the way across the Pacific to Los Angeles. He is a basketball fanatic, he loves the LA Lakers, and he has always dreamed of watching Magic Johnson’s once-in-a-century brilliance.
“Her only problem is that between her booking the seats, and the date of their flight, Magic Johnson retired!
"With all her supposed inside knowledge of the future, don’t you think she would have seen that coming?”
What could I say?
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