Such is the amazing reach of BBC radio Humberside that, since I mentioned it on air, the number of hits on this site has rocketed. I have to admit to have become something of an addict to this means of communicating ideas. It is so democratic to be able to place ideas into the public domain – ideas about how you see life and how you respond to events. No longer do you have to negotiate with editors or anyone — from one’s desk you can communicate with the world.
Day-by-day it becomes more apparent that we live in a world which is significantly challenged. The price of fuel, the price of food, the changing climate are each symptoms of the future being different. We have had a period of time in the West which was well described by Harold Macmillan way back in 1957 when he remarked “indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good”. Little did he know how right he was, we have had cheap energy, cheap food and cheap travel which have combined to enable us to develop a way of life which so many of us have enjoyed immensely. With key elements of life becoming inexpensive, we have had money to spare and so have been able to enjoy purchasing luxuries such as cameras, ipods, games cubes and the ;attest fashions, not on an occasional basis but as a regular pattern of consumer activity. News today that there is the distinct possibility that for the first time in human history there will be no ice at the North Pole this summer is a further reminder that the future is going to be different.
As I paid the staggering sum of £83 to fill my car yesterday, I could only reflect that life is changing rapidly and I that I am going to have to get used to different patterns of travel. When I go shopping, like many others, I am going to have to have to buy less and perhaps we are all going to have to go back to days when we have things repaired when they break down, rather than constantly replacing them.
The question which I keep posing is how are we going to respond to all this change? History suggests that when enormous changes face us, we can very quickly become violent and irrational in our response. In the early 19th century when the weaving looms became mechanised, there was a group called the Luddites whose response to what they understood as a threat to their way of life was to smash the new mechanised looms. I think that we are we are faced with similar threats to our way of life, but do we have repeat patterns of anger and violence as these realities force us to see and understand life differently?
I do believe that we can be rescued from this pattern of change and violence if we keep our ideas flowing – ideas about what is enough in terms of what we consume; ideas about how to live carefully giving space to other people in this world to flourish; ideas about how to be generous; ideas about how to be kind; ideas about how to be reasonable.
There is nothing new about such ideas, they are to be found in the depths of ideas about faith and God. Fundamental to the Christian faith is a searching question about how to live in such a way as to enable one’s neighbour, whoever they may be, to also enjoy the experience of being alive. And the greatest gift we have as humans is to use our amazing brains to discover how to adjust to new contexts for life. So we need to keep the ideas flowing and cyberspace gives us the opportunity to keep sharing our ideas about what’s happening in a beautiful but complex world.