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Small Wonders: Too busy marveling at our gadgets?

January 22, 2011

Last Sunday, instead of going to church, I went for a bike ride. Before you hasten me to a toasty corner of purgatory, know that I listened to a sermon podcast while I rode. Closing my eyes during prayer was dangerous; but nobody on the bike path was in the proper lane anyway, so all were safe.

Some of my best thoughts come while my body is otherwise occupied with balancing on two wheels — breathing, dodging pugs on leashes and moms with strollers. I usually carry a notepad and pen to capture my epiphanies: brilliant insights about Cher, the price of tea in Uganda, or the curious growth on my back. Struck suddenly with another gem, I reached for my notepad and realized I'd forgotten it.

Quick thinking, I paused the sermon, opened the voice-memo app on my iPhone and said these words: "Reality or virtuality?"

Brilliance in a bottle once again.

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Later that day, I watched Thing 1 and Thing 2 engage in a heated tennis match on the Wii in the cozy confines of our living room. That was their big present this Christmas. You should have seen their faces when they opened it, brighter than the video fireplace playing on the TV that morning.

As they played, I put on headphones, blissfully secluding myself from the world, and listened to my own shrill voice. And I had absolutely no idea what I was trying to snatch from the ether with those ingenious words.

I'm notorious for this. There's a box in my garage with scraps of paper dating back to 1992. On each scrap is a similarly inspiring nugget that I now can neither understand, decipher nor throw away for fear I'd figured out the meaning of life when I was 25 and just needed to unearth it in the next millennia and share it with the rest of the world. I'll get to it someday. Sit tight.

When the kids switched to Wii bowling, it made me reminisce about Pickwick and Jewel City; the places of my youth where I learned to bowl with 8-pound balls, not 8-ounce game controllers. Saddened, I went online to share this with 600 of my closest "friends" as a status update on Facebook.

I thought about sending out some e-mails too, maybe even texting a few family members while I waited eagerly for someone to respond and validate my observation with a "like" or an uplifting comment within 420 typed characters. But my neighbor interrupted with an Instant Message. By the time we caught up on our daily lives, I'd forgotten what I was working on.

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