I’m pretty sure this kind of thing has happened to you. We don’t have an ‘Alexa’ but the boys and I got a little bit freaked out when, at one end of the room where they were playing Fifa on the Xbox they commented about how much they liked the Monaco team kit. Although I was doing something else, when they mentioned ‘nice dark green’ my ears pricked up so I noticed when, within moments, an ad for the Monaco football kit appeared on my laptop, right in the middle of the screen.
I don’t know much about this, but I’ve read before that where things are placed, either on shelves, or on paper, or digitally, makes a big difference in terms of the likelihood of being noticed. Middle is best. In supermarkets companies pay more to have their products placed in the middle, at eye-level.
A friend who is studying creative writing told me last week that in comic books, the middle of the page is the most important panel, because your eye is drawn there first, even before you go to the top left hand corner to follow the sequence of events. His comments got me thinking. If my life was a comic book, what would be in the centre panel today?
For me the answer might be different on different days but last week it was a student called Diego from Mexico City who was staying a few days with us. Having guests has the potential to change us – the topics of conversation, the food we eat, our attempts to help them feel at home. We’ve had other guests this summer who have left a lasting impression, long after they have left, and our lives have been deepened by their company. When you have people staying with you, most of your normal life doesn’t change at all but somehow you see what is ordinary in new ways.
We saw the musical ‘Hamilton’ yesterday which brilliantly highlights a lot of the issues of our day – even while being set in the 1700s. One of the many catchy songs has the refrain ‘I wanna be in the room where it happens’. It felt poignant at a time when some leaders appear to be acting unilaterally to jeopardise our future in this relentlessly depressing and infuriating political climate.
‘The room where it happens’ might be a political reality but it occurred to me that there is another room that I have a lot more control over; the interior room of my heart. Resistance here looks like holding close to the one who holds me, loving this guest who is also my host, who created and sustains the world, but loves in ways that look powerless. Marvellously, he is the apple of my eye and I am his.
When I was a university student, ‘Manifesto’ by Wendell Berry spoke powerfully to me. I came across it again the other day and some its words prophetically challenge me now. May it be true in the room where it happens.
When they want you to buy something
They will call you. When they want you
To die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
That won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the World. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.