“Ye have become as gods” said someone or another, but apparently, the gods demand the latest i-Phone to pay attention. Here in the Turkish countryside, my good friend and colleague Estevao and I set off after lunch to our “usual restaurant” with a lovely owner who thinks I look smart and should be President of Something. Ha! The place has inviting outdoor tables with umbrellas and a cool breeze, fresh orange juice and delicious spinach crepes. All that is worthy enough to attract us, but our real motivation is the almighty wi-fi signal. Happy enough to be in a wi-fi free zone in our Circle Camp, talking to the new people next to us instead of the familiar people far away. That’s great! But…
I have a grandson on his way out and I want to know when he finally arrives. I have things happening around the upcoming summer course that need attention. I have people interested in my jazz course awaiting my reply. Yesterday I went on a fun excursion to Ephesus with my new Iranian friends and at the end, we all went to the restaurant and everyone took a moment to retreat to their phones. I didn’t have my computer so I tried to log on with someone’s phone. Well, that was no fun. Couldn’t get to AOL, then I could, but was like a beginning piano player on the tiny electronic keyboard, hitting all the wrong notes. I did find out that my daughter had had a few contractions and that was great news, but that’s as far as I could go. So I was especially anxious to connect today.
So back at “our place” ordering “the usual,” Estevao and I rolled up our sleeves to get to work. And yet for the usual unfathomable reasons, I couldn’t connect. So I moved five tables down and ten minutes later, success! I searched through the 144 e-mails for my wife’s message and found out that the contractions became regular and labor is in full swing. Hooray! Then started trying to answer messages. Technical errors. Spinning wheels for five minutes before saying “didn’t send.” Another five minutes to try to save as draft. And then—no! Estevao’s phone was working better than my computer, but then he began having problems too. So we moved to a new restaurant and guess what? Couldn’t connect. Could. Couldn’t. Could but can’t send. Maddening.
This is a boring first-world theme, but it’s my reality at the moment. And increasingly, a lot of our realities. In the old days, the health of a village was dependent on the local shaman being able to get online with the local deities. Then centralized religions came in and priests took over, not necessarily by calling or shamanic talent, but by birth or privilege. With sometimes unearned power, abuse of their authority was not uncommon. Hindu priests could claim that certain people could not rise to their full spiritual promise because of past karmic misdeeds which got them stuck in an inferior caste. Then a revolutionary named Buddha blew that open by teaching a meditation practice freely available to all. Attention to posture and breath and a few techniques for calming the monkey mind and the line is open to the spiritual world. Centuries later, the Protestants usurped the power of the Catholic priests as the only ones with God’s phone number by posting it in the Bible and teaching people to read. So throughout history, the folks with the talent and/or job description to negotiate things with the other world held a great power.
Today, the IT technicians are the new holders of power, the ones that can create the machines and signals and sufficient power to connect you. Or randomly, mysteriously, maddeningly, not connect you. Or disconnect you. And no restaurant owner knows what the heck to do to increase the signal. And so Estevao and I left frustrated and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone to heal our stress. Then played some soothing Turkish 9/8 rhythms in Ezo’s (colleague, friend and Circle Camp organizer) afternoon class.
Now I’m not exactly suggesting that God has an e-mail address or you can text him, her or it.
It was a stretch to compare the wi-fi signal with the shaman’s ability to contact the Spirits. But in terms of what our culture values, the daily e-mail and Facebook check have indeed affected our day the way the petition to the gods have affected others through time and across places (such practices indeed are alive and well today in some corners of the planet). But a week overdue, I indeed am petitioning the gods to both take care of my daughter and baby-to-be and to inform me immediately as to the latest update. Halfway across the world, my little grandson is pushing his way out and me so far away and anxious to hear his first cry, even if just as a report on a glowing screen. Wi-fi gods, hear my call!!
PS It’s the next day, I got connected and my grandson is born, hefty and healthy and a natural childbirth!!!!