watch out for icebergs

I am fascinated by the way that internet memes seem to come around in cycles. Someone comes across a meme as ‘new to them’ and shares it, and a whole new generation of people who haven’t seen it before share it as if it’s new. That happened to me this week when someone shared the following:

“Never be afraid to try something new: remember that amateurs built the ark but professionals built the Titanic.”

Now I know what they are trying to say, but there’s a big flaw in this: the meme is based on flawed logic. You might as well say that my childhood go-kart that I used to ride down our drive was built by an amateur (my dad) but my car that I use on the roads is built by professionals! The different status of the builders was irrelevant to their success. It seems to me from my limited research that the reason the Titanic sank was not the build quality it was a failure to adapt to the environment. The Titanic was steaming at full speed and when a warning of icebergs in the area was received it should have reduced speed and increased the lookouts so that they could take avoiding action.

Image result for icebergs

Why didn’t they adapt? There are a number of theories. Perhaps the failure to adapt to the environment was also based on arrogance – the Titanic was famously claimed to be ‘unsinkable’ so why would you need to slow down? Maybe it was down to prestige – the desire to make the fastest passenger crossing of the Atlantic and the associated publicity and perhaps commercial success that would be associated with it. It’s possible that it was ignorance – a failure to recognise the dangers – but that seems unlikely given that Captain Smith was extremely experienced and had been master of numerous vessels.

Whatever the cause, it seems to me that the reason that the Titanic sank was not because of build quality but because of a failure to adapt to the environment.

So to what changes in our environment should we adapt?

There’s The Environment which, despite the Nelsonian blind-eye approach of Donald Trump and climate-change deniers, is changing rapidly (and potentially catastrophically) caused by human action. If we all make small changes it will make a big difference.

But there are other changes – technological change is increasingly changing the ways that we interact with one another and how we operate as human beings (at least in the countries where the technology is available and affordable). Reading some of the vitriol that is poured out via social media against people who have different views to the ‘author’ upsets me considerably. I wonder whether one change in environment to adapt to is a recognition that the impact and reach of what we say is far greater than we might imagine (like the amount of iceberg hidden under the surface of the water) and a realisation that we need to be more careful before steaming ahead at full speed with our opinions into iceberg-infested waters.

I believe that the concept of ‘family’ is sailing in dangerous waters. The traditional model of family has been changed by the family breakdown and divorce, social and economic mobility and other changes in society and moral attitudes that have created families with multiple parents, absent parents and other family configurations that would not have been imagined half a century ago. Some wring their hands and long for the ‘good old days’ but we are where we are. Whatever we think of this we need to adapt and sail carefully in these waters. Condemnation of difference merely because it does not conform with our ideal is likely to tear a huge gash in the hull of our society that is irreparable. Instead we could navigate far more wisely by emphasising the importance of communication, community, love and valuing all as wonderfully-created human beings.

I am sure you can think of others. However, there’s one other major difference between the Titanic and the Ark and that’s to do with motive for them being built. The Titanic was built for commercial reasons, the Ark was built to preserve life. One was a cruise-liner motivated by profit, the other was a lifeboat motivated by God. Which would you rather be on?

Be blessed, be a blessing

happy endings

If they had released the news ten days ago we would all have assumed it was an April Fools Day prank. If it had just come in an email we would have ignored it as a phishing attempt. If it has been a Facebook status that we were urged to share we would have thought it was a sham or a scam.

Server RackBut apparently there is a bug in some security software that was supposed to make internet transactions secure that potentially has the opposite effect and would enable attackers to steal usernames and passwords, copy data and even set up spoof websites that appear legitimate. This loophole has existed for 2 years! The ‘experts’ tell us that there is no evidence that anyone has made use of this bug but we are still being advised to change all our passwords as a precaution. If you think this could be a spoof bloggage have a look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26954540 (unless of course that is a page that has been set up using the bug…)

It’s scary stuff isn’t it? Especially in a world in which we conduct so many of our transactions online.  And especially when we are urged to have different passwords for all of our different logins and we can’t remember which ones are which! Even more so because we probably login to the same sites from different gadgets so will have to repeat the process several times for each site. I predict that the inconvenience and frustration levels of internet users will rise over the next couple of days as we all try to do what we have been advised but can’t remember all of the details!

How many of us won’t bother? How many of us will assume that it won’t happen to us? After all, how many billions of transactions are taking place online every day, what are the chances that ours will have been intercepted? And the experts tell us that they don’t think anyone has been compromised. So why go through all of the hassle?

Last Sunday morning we looked at a passage from Luke 20 where Jesus issued a warning to the people in Jerusalem about its imminent destruction, while also containing warnings about the end of time. How many people ignored him at their peril when the Romans razed the city to the ground in AD70? The film Noah has just been released which shows a man and his family responding to a divine warning even though it seemed madness to those around them until the rain started falling.

When we talk about warnings about the end of time we can seem a bit bonkers. We can seem like the people who used to walk around with billboards: ‘The End of the World is nigh’ – at best quirky and at worst suffering from some sort of delusion. And for all of those reasons I think Christians have avoided the subject – unless somehow the public spotlight shines on them when they announce the date of the end of the world (and then announce a different date when the first one proves to be wrong).

But all of the scientific evidence points us towards an end time. This planet has finite resources that will run out eventually. The sun is going to expire one day (or night). There are predictions based on probability of cataclysmic asteroid impacts on earth. The environmental impact we have made on our planet is heating it up. And even our economic systems have been shown to be very fragile. We tell ourselves that these events are a long way in the future and are highly unlikely to affect us.

And Jesus did tell us not to try to work out when it will all happen. He simply encouraged people to be ready: “watch and pray.” If we have an eye on the future we will know that this world is not all there is and that one day it will cease – so we can hold much more lightly to the things of ‘now’ that will enable us not to worry so much about them, perhaps reducing stress! And if we are prayerful about it we can invite God’s perspective on who we are and how we are.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Now to change the passwords…