If you’re anything like me you’ve got a strange sort of love-hate relationship with technology and gadgetry in general; you’ll love the things that it can bring us – communicating with friends half a world away by email and Skype; allowing us to post random thoughts into the blogosphere; immersive media experiences from 3D cinema to gaming, the ability to check your bank balance on a mobile phone etc. – whilst simultaneously loathing certain aspects of that same liberating tech. Loading times – I hate that little spinning ring/egg-timer thingy – system crashes just before you press the save button, network unavailable when you want to make a call, some geeky virus that wants to wreck your hard drive for no good reason.
It’s the feeling that the tech conspires against you that’s most annoying; I’m sure my Xbox decides to hang just when I’m about to win, I know for sure that my mobile phone decides to go belly up just when I need to make an important call, and my phone is, without doubt, in league with my external hard drives (and you’ll notice that it’s drives plural, ‘cos I’ve had three of the cursed things go mental on me, losing hundreds of GB of data when the last one spat the dummy!).
Frequently when tech goes all haywire, we’re reduced to the failsafe position of ‘forcing an emergency reboot’ – i.e. turning it on and off again or pressing the ‘reset button’ or clicking the icon that asks us if we want to ‘restore factory settings?’
My latest brush with tech disaster (and the nameless super-geeks that claimed they could retrieve/restore my lost data for one easy payment which was more than my mortgage for goodness sake! – guess I can live without that precious data after all!!!) got me thinking. Would I want a ‘reset’ button for me? If there was, would I press the button? Would I want to ‘restore the factory settings’ for my life? What would the ‘Factory Settings’ even be?
One of the problems I have with thinking that there might be ‘Factory Settings’ lurking deep within me is that there’s a part of me, the individualistic, independent, me-centric part, that rebels at the idea that we – me, you, us – are somehow all the same, that there might be some fundamental elements that we all share. (Naturally, I’m not referring to the merely physical aspects of us – I have no problem with the idea that we all have roughly the same amount of body parts and organs and such like! I mean attitudes, potentials, something vital within us.) You see, I absolutely believe that each and every one of us is an individual, never to be repeated, totally without comparison and completely unique person; one look around us should be all the evidence we need to confirm that one, and the idea that there might be something like ‘Factory Settings’ that might mitigate against that disturbs me.
But … I’ve been thinking. I wrote, in “Religious Picture Painter Wanted”, that “Orthodox Christianity talks of a Creator God, who made humanity in His image – for me, that means that there’s a spark of creativity built-in to each and every one of us”. So, it seems I’m not totally averse to the idea that there are things that are hard-wired into all of us.
Perhaps my problem is that I don’t particularly like some of the things that seem to be default settings in me … my selfishness, my lack of compassion, my inertia, my baser instincts if you will. So, maybe, just maybe, I have to hope that there are some other things that are common to us all – important things – that might well equate to ‘Factory Settings.’
Things like …
Community – if, or rather since, we are made in the image of God then somewhere there must be a default setting towards community. The Orthodox Trinitarian view of God, as Father, Son and Spirit seems to suggest that there is something fundamental about relationship and mutuality and community that is both at the heart of the Godhead, and in the heart of each of us. John Donne was definitely on to something when he wrote “No man is an island” – we seem to function more fully when we’re in community with/related to another group of folks.
Awareness – by which I mean an understanding or apprehension that there is something ‘more’ to us, and in us and around us than our physicality suggests; a feeling that there is a part of us that is somehow more than just biochemical neurological interaction and reaction. Perhaps some would term this a feeling of ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ – I’m not dead sure about what words I’d use but they’d be two relatively handy ones – and that the feeling of ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ was also a ‘Factory Setting’ we all shared.
Creativity – the urge within us to create (to write, to paint, to draw, to debate, to speak, sing, dance, act, perform, to play, to think, to have an idea about how to do things better, easier, quicker; the desire to have children, the desire to create a better future; the drive to care about the present) links us intimately to the notion of the Creator God and that resonant spark within us that wants to express our wonder, joy and desire to make our mark on things. I genuinely maintain that if you’re not able to find a release or direction for the creativity within you, that you’re missing out on being the whole you. But then, I’m an Art graduate so I’m a bit weird that way!
There’s probably a few more ‘Factory Settings’ that you could think of – and I’m encouraging you to do so – what about Love? Hope?
The poem of Genesis 1 tells us that it was God’s intention to “Make man in our image, in our likeness” … so perhaps it’s more likely that our Factory Settings are more like ‘family resemblance.’ What do you think?