People have been asking me where I live and, being the private, slightly secretive person that you know I am (and you love me for it…I hope) I have been avoiding the question. But, hey, what the heck. I am actually proud of where I live. It’s a great city. I think the best of cities. I travel, as you know, so I’ve seen a few. Melbourne I love and Vancouver is pretty cool (great beers). Didn’t really like New York but I think I went with a load of preconceptions so ought to give it another try. Saw Stockholm and Oslo this year and really enjoyed them. I am sure there are many who would say I should visit their city but I don’t think any will surpass Cambridge. For me it has a vibe like nowhere else. Small enough to be familiar, large enough to have a continuing round of interesting activities. Seat of learning where the old merges with the new. Coffee houses in abundance, restaurants, boutique brew houses, great book shops. How can I go wrong?
But there is a small taint in my experience of Cambridge. It occurred about 4, possibly 5 years ago.
As you can imagine Cambridge has it’s sprinkling of known characters and as I left Heffers, the bookshop, one Sunday afternoon, I was passed by a woman who was pushing a wheelchair. This seemed to be causing some interest. I paused to look and realised the the occupant of the chair was Stephen Hawking. As you will know he had been confined to a wheelchair for a number of years, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but what a testimony the man was to overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to give expression to his genius! His presence seemed to be causing a stir and tourists were trying to take photos. The lady pushing the chair was repeatedly asking them not to, but to no avail.
For me, the way which people continued with their phones, disregarding the requests, was an indictment on what we have become and worst of these were those who contorted themselves, blocking the way of the wheelchair, to achieve the accursed “selfie”. I was appalled, saddened, sorry for the lady and most of all, Stephen Hawking. Nothing could be done to stop the people as Cambridge in the summer is to be likened to bees to honey when it comes to tourists.
I always felt like I’m not from this generation, I just live in it. Because the way my mind differs from the majority, you’d think I come from a different dimension. That’s why I keep things to myself because a lot of people won’t understand meKeanu Reeves: Thefreethoughtsproject.com
So, what has happened to our society? How cheap has dignity been rendered in recent years? Where have people reached when the need to have a photo, just one more photo, trumps the very need to extend respect to another person? That instant gratification renders dignity null and void. How many people have any substance left? That all sounds dreadfully judgemental and I try so hard to walk on the opposite path to judgement. But when, for so many, the biggest achievements in life are measured by the size of their digital library and the “self” photos they’ve taken, what can I say?
Sometimes I long for a world that seems “other” and “elsewhere”. A world that is built on foundations of relationship, real heart-to-heart relationship (and I am someone who keeps his circle small). So much so that we afford each other respect and room for dignity. Have you ever read the Desiderata? If you haven’t you really should. There is a line in it that simply states:
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
A more beautiful way of life? To do this requires not only a commitment to listen but also a sacrificing of time to do so. Putting a person ahead of agenda. Am I being a cynic if I suggest that for many these qualities just aren’t there as they rush headlong through the day, attention glued to their device? Indeed, it may require qualities better than those I currently display, allowing others to enter my space, for I am a private and selective with my time. But it would be a better world, wouldn’t it?
Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive. And that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment I can to others.Mary Angelou
Dignity? Do we even remember what this looks like? My recollection of that Sunday outside Heffers would tell me we do not. If the overwhelming need to have another picture, worse still, a “selfie” in the catalogue, surpasses the honouring of a great person and recognition of his unfortunate condition then I must think no. Have we become a generation of no substance? Shallow? What is happening that the very substance of our humanity is being taken from us and in its place we have substituted “devices” and an electronic world where thinking is done for us. Where we are guided on how we should do relationship via acceptable media? Was the Matrix prophetic? A documentary?
For my part, I think I will accept being known as a “fuddy duddy”, not old, as old so often precedes this term, but seeking a lifestyle where people matter. Where the “Golden Rule” still is currency. Dignity and respect may be fading values being overtaken by the spirit of the “selfie”, the belief “it’s all about me” and the need for instant gratification. But you and I can make a pact to shine and allow ourselves to be labelled “out dated” or even eccentric (which I rather like) whilst making room and time for strangers and having consideration for all people.
Am I a “fuddy duddy”? Call me eccentric and you can bet I’ll smile!
Yours, taking time and creating space,