I woke up this morning, stretched, twisted my arms around a wee bit, checked to make sure that everything was pretty much in working order. (It seems so to be.) I don’t take that for granted; whereas for a long time, I treated my body rather the way I treat cars (fill it with fuel when it needs it, take it in for repairs when it doesn’t want to go, figure that as long as it’s rolling forward it’s in fine condition), I’ve grown more acutely aware of the value of preventative maintenance. Not, however, without some rips and tears and creaks and sparks. But that’s to be expected: today I’m fifty years old.
That’s more than a great many people are afforded, even in the medically-advanced cultures of Europe and North America. Each day is a gift, but every morning that gift becomes a more rare and precious — and weighty — responsibility. Over the decades I’ve gotten some things right, many things wrong, and fallen far short of what a more disciplined, focused person might have done with my resources. Alas, the insight of fifty years can’t ensure that I’ll bear down harder and focus more intently with the days still afforded me.
So when a flock of generous and dear friends, most of whom have never shared physical proximity to me, wish me a happy birthday and say kind things about me, I shuffle my digital feet and gaze off into space, I blink my eyes a bit and squeeze them closed; I give thanks for all the good news they’ve shared with me, and I ache for the hard times they’ve trusted me to go through beside them, and I hope and pray for better days all around. Though much of what I’ve been mulling over with regard to digital technology and religion has struck a cautious note, I most nonetheless recognize that these friendships have begun and grown and borne significant fruit in the digital medium (with apologies to Doc, who (I think) disapproves of using “medium” to characterize digital communication technologies). My mom and dad, my sister and Margaret’s family and Si and some of my oldest, closest friends all emailed birthday greetings. I’ve met Frank and Jeneane and Gary and Joey and David in physical space (not yet Tom or Mike or Euan), but who we are together derives much more from the colorful page designs and compelling, or casual, or comical, or cutting, or comforting, or critical, or sometimes even contemptuous words by means of which we communicate.
Their affection and generosity demonstrate so much of what’s exquisite about this risky business of reaching out into the digitally-potentiated dimension of our lives: sometimes we touch.