What if all I want is a mediocre life?

I posted a link to this blog post by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui some time ago on Facebook but want to link to it here because I think it expresses well how I often feel myself about the idea of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘success’. Read the whole post, it’s worth it.

What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?

What if all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between? Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted? Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

New name, new host, same blog

Yesterday I made a couple of changes to my blog, though I’m hoping that you will barely notice one of them.

The change you will most likely notice is a change of blog name, from ‘Mike McArthur’ to ‘A Saved Wretch’. This is the name I used for my blog for a while in 2014 and despite not using it since then I kept the domain name because I like it.

Over recent weeks I’ve been feeling that I should write more about my faith than I have been and the name change is based on this conviction. I like this name for the depth of meaning it derives from the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.

I personally identify with being amazed that God in his grace would save a wretch like me. This is a significant element of my story so seems appropriate to use as the name for my personal blog. And while I do want to write about my faith a bit more, this remains a personal blog – an ongoing story of my life. Topics will continue to range wherever my wandering mind happens to go.

I mentioned having made two changes. The second is switching my hosting provider from Siteground to WordPress.com. My one year of hosting at Siteground expires soon and while they offered a 60% discount on the first year, the full price thereafter is a bit steep for what you get so it was time to look elsewhere.

WordPress.com have a massive and efficient infrastructure, tailored towards ease of use. The platform is restricting with respect to not allowing plugins on the cheaper plans, but this is not currently an issue to me so the pros outweigh the cons for what I need. I’m using the same theme as I had previously, so all you are likely to notice about this change is different wording in the site footer credits.

Eliminating human interaction

I’ve only this week become aware of a retail revolution that causes me significant anxiety the more I learn about it.

The poster child of this revolution is Amazon Go, a cashier-less grocery store in downtown Seattle which opened to the public on 22 January 2018.

There are cameras and sensors, to detect when you’ve walked in and when items are removed from shelves, and there are check-in kiosks near the entrance for scanning your phone to register your presence via Amazon Prime. (Nick Statt on The Verge)

For an idea of what the sensors are like check out the article: Amazon Go cashierless convenience store opens in the Seattle Times. The idea of computers and artificial intelligence tracking my every movement in a shop has a distinctly Orwellian tone to it, but on the other hand being able to just walk in, pick up what you need and then walk out without waiting in queues is appealing.

Amazon is not the only online retail giant playing with this sort of technology, Alibaba  has also trailed a checkout-free store which uses facial recognition to charge customers for their purchases automatically: Alibaba’s cash-free Tao Cafe

I want to emphasise that I am not a conspiracy theorist, I think the development of ways to avoid checkout queues and reduce staffing costs is an obvious progression based on human nature. Customers want secure ways to pay that minimise waiting times, and retailers want whatever mechanism they can find to maximise profit, reduce theft and streamline accounting. The hardware and software used in these cashier-less stores facilitates advantages for both retailers and customers.

For the majority of people, convenience subtly but strongly influences behaviour, gradually altering social norms with things like cars, ATMs, and contactless payment now quite normal. It’s not difficult to envisage a progression to biometric and implanted technology which enables people to completely do without credit or debit cards, cash or cheques. A completely cashless society is still decades away in my estimate (it was predicted when the first EFT-POS machines arrived), but probably inevitable.

The convenience of not having to worry about carrying cash or cards would be nice, but I do have some concerns about the whole thing. Obviously for Christians there is the scary spectre of Revelation 13:16-17, but even without that I worry that our technological ‘progress’ is taking us too quickly into realms in which our psychological wellbeing is unable to cope.

Humans have always lived in community, to be alone is risky for survival and useless for propagating the species. Because we are social beings, we are finely tuned to the reactions of people around us and the relationships we have with them. By automating everything they can get their hands on, engineers are interfering with this dynamic and may end up driving increasing numbers of people into serious psychological distress. Maybe this seems like an over reaction, but it is not difficult to find reports of people who live alone and only really interact with shop attendants and bus drivers, is it a good thing to eliminate even these few personal interactions?

A few relevant links:

Disadvantages of always carrying a notebook

For at least the last five years I have carried a small notebook in my back pocket, a habit I highly recommend. I very seldom use my iPhone to capture short notes, anything I want to remember goes into my notebook.

However, I’ve discovered a few downsides to always having that notebook in my back pocket:

notebook pocket

I always keep my notebook in the same pocket, with the result that over time it has worn a hole in that pocket of my jeans. I would have thought my phone would have worn a hole, but I must carry the notebook around more than the phone.

This last weekend I was working in our back yard and got a bit wet at one point, with resulting damage to my previously pristine notebook:

sad-notebook

It dried out OK so I’m continuing to use it. And the advantage of having used pencil in this notebook is that there were no issues with ink running.

Perhaps I will find more downsides to pocket notebooks as the years go by, but compared to the headaches I’ve had with smartphones over the same time span, old fashioned paper and pencil is remarkably robust.

Pet tragedy

Last Saturday we had a distressing accident with one of our baby rabbits. A plank of wood which held down the rain cover over one of our rabbit hutches fell down into the hutch and hit a little rabbit named ‘Oreo’ on the head. It was a severe impact, breaking her front teeth and causing concussion and some sort of injury to her nasal passages making it hard for her to breathe.

We took her to the vet and they gave her oxygen, pain relief, and kept her as comfortable as possible. Then it became a case of waiting to see if she improved or deteriorated. She remained in the vet clinic overnight and we were pleased she survived the night. Unfortunately the blow to her head must have caused major brain trauma and severe injury to her nose because she was still struggling to breathe, was partially paralysed on her right side and seemed to still be in a lot of pain.

Our vet considered her long term chances of survival to be low and the poor little rabbit was distressed so we made the hard but hopefully humane decision to euthanise her to avoid further suffering.

I find the decision to end the life of a pet to be difficult and haunting, the internal debate of whether it was the right choice remains with me for a long time. I’ve had to make that call for two dogs in the last five years and despite it being the rationally obvious decision in both cases I still feel terrible for making that choice for both of them.

I’m well aware that in nature survival is a constant struggle for all animals and their normal state of existence is probably what I would call suffering for a pet, but as  Christian I consider this a result of the Fall rather than the original plan for creation (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

Oreo
Oreo
Related:

Meet Marshmallow

Furry Friday cuteness, meet Marshmallow – as named by my son (the white baby bunny, Dusty her mum is in the background). The hutch is a custom creation from an old plywood packing crate.

Marshmallow-Dusty