The Joys and Tribulation of the Internet and Blogging

The world has changed. I’m not sure about the exact time when it happened. It is hard to pinpoint this historical event. Was it when “WWW” became the new idea of the electronic computer? Or did it have it origin when the first programmable computer was build by Konrad Zuse in Berlin-Kreuzberg in 1941?

IBM took up the idea in 1946 and we haven’t looked back since. Now, I can’t do without my PC and my Blog. My wife thought the PC was only for playing Free Cell. Once her niece gave her the idea and I showed her the ropes, she took to it like the proverbial duck to water. She is blogging now, full steam from early in the morning till late at night. She has a readership that spans the globe and has left me for dead in the numbers of publications. Has anybody given blogging as a reason for divorce? Just kidding.

When blogging, we are opening our minds to the world and let other people take part in our thinking processes. But haven’t writers done this all through the ages? They have been ridiculed and revered for what they had to say. Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday was yesterday, probably would be a blogger now. Or, what about Tolstoy? He could blog to his heart’s content and reach millions of people espousing his ideas how the people of the world should behave and function. In his time the Russian peasants were mostly illiterate. Today the Russians are the masters of the cyber world. What an audience he could have! Perhaps Putin would put him in jail for being subversive. The celebrity he was, that would make a splash around the world.

What about Shakespeare? Would he be a blogger? To be a blogger or not to be a blogger, that would not be a question for him today. Of course he would be a blogger. Weren’t his plays about the ideas he had about people and events? The audience was very much involved at the theatre. Alas, they were all born too early to be bloggers. But other people blog about them and so, their ideas are kept alive.

Most writers were copious letter writers; but person to person only. The letters were carried by Post and now the written word is carried by the internet via the oceans and by satellites to many people at the same time. Only the kind of transmission has changed, not the writing. When Humboldt wrote to Schiller we had to wait a long time to share their thoughts. Now we can take part in the conversation of various people almost instantly and not wait fifty or hundred years.

The Internet and the blogging demand our full attention. We have become addicts. We communicate with hundreds of people, taking in words and spitting them out again in a new combination. When my grandfather was seventy and retired he was sitting at the kitchen table for long hours of the day and did crossword puzzles. He raked his brain for words and I rake my brain for words. He tried to fit those words into a pattern. I try to fit them into a pattern that looks like a readable sentence. Granddad only wanted to see whether his brain could remember. I try to say something that makes sense.

Does it? You be the judge.

Let Heaven Decide

Hannah kept herself busy with little chores. She kept an eye on her father, Hans, who was having one of his many naps in preparation, as he called it, for the other side. “One has to be prepared,” he would say to Hannah when he was awake. They were in a room of a country hospital. From outside a Magpie could be heard singing. When he was awake Hans could see a gum tree through the window. In the afternoon the sun shone through the branches, bathing it into a green and golden glow. The Magpie and the gum tree, Hans loved those two aspects of Australia.

Sometimes he became restless while dozing and one afternoon as Hannah sat by his bedside she heard him shouting, “Eva”. Hannah jumped up to check on him.

“Dad, wake up, you are having a bad dream,’ she said shaking his shoulder.

“It’s you,” he said and shook his head as if he wanted to shake something out of it.

“I was miles away, actually over sixty years.”

“What was it, Dad?”

“You may think I’m silly, but it is an old dream I had.” Hans said.

“I heard you shout, ‘Eva’, so it must be about a woman? Did you know an Eva?”

Hans cleared his throat and sipped on the glass of water Hannah was holding to his lips. His hands were shaking as he tried to get hold of the glass.

“I will tell you, if you promise not to get cross with me,” Hans said.

“I won’t Dad,” she said as she put the glass back onto the bedside table.

“It is always the same dream and the story goes back to the the end of the war. You know, of course, that I was a soldier in the German army when the Red Army encircled Berlin and we seemed to be trapped, expecting the worst.

In the dream, all the buildings in the street are burning and I’m on a military truck with some mates. We are heading out of the city. I tell you, it is an apocalypse. Dead soldiers, of both sides, are laying everywhere. Dead horses, partly cut up, are rotting in the gutter. Dead young boys are hanging from the lamp posts. They were executed for wanting to go home. As the truck, in the dream, tries to navigate all the obstacles I see a woman running out of a building. The fire storm is tearing at the flowery dress. She looks at us bewildered and waves with both arms. She wants us to stop. I recognised her as the Red Cross nurse I had met previously a few times and I want to help her, pick her up and take her out of the inferno. But the officer in the cabin told the driver to move on and not to bother. I was devastated. When I called out her name she recognised me. Our truck sped away. I could see that the walls of a burning building collapsed into the street and I was not able to see her any more. With only slight variations I dream the same dream, again and again.” Hans stopped and seemed exhausted. He asked for water.

“That is a terrible dream, Dad. Did you know the woman?” Hannah asked.

“Yeah, yeah, I knew her. But it was before your Mum, you have to understand.”

“Was her name really Eva, Dad?”

“Yes, Darling. As I said, she was a Red Cross nurse and she did good work with the wounded soldiers. The army had established a field hospital in the subway tunnel. The nurses were real angels, I tell you. They were often the last people the soldiers saw before dying. Later, some idiot flooded the subway so the Russians would not be able to use the tunnel. The wounded drowned by the hundreds.”

“What happened to Eva, Dad?” Hannah wanted to know.

“I first met her in the tunnel, when I was getting a minor scratch attended to. The war hadn’t stopped yet, nothing was virtual then. After a couple of hours or days, who knows, I saw her again in a cellar were we received some food. Someone had found some Schnaps and in no time we had a little party going. Eva and I, we started to talk and as she was very attractive I felt we should do more than just do the talk. In those days we were all opportunistic, men and women. It could have been the last time. We did not promise much to each other but implored each other to survive and we exchanged home addresses.

The next day our officer organised a breakout to the West. We met up with a group of Flemish SS volunteers, real desperadoes, they did not want to fall into the hands of the Russians. To cut a long story short, we made it to the Elbe, where the Americans took us prisoners. I felt sorry for Eva, could not forget her for years. After the war I made inquiries. Her family told me she was missing. When I met your Mum I forgot about Eva for a while. But then the dream started.”

“Did Mum know about the dream?”

“Yes, she knew, but she was never jealous.”

“Mum and you loved each other, that is what counted.”

“But I’m worried now, that my life comes to an end and I will meet both women in heaven and I have to decide between the two.”

“Don’t be silly, Dad. In heaven no one has to decide anything. That is why it is called ‘Heaven’.”

“If you say so,” Hans said with a wry smile. He was exhausted and shut his eyes. 

Hannah stroked his hand. He was asleep.

After the Earthquake

I have come to visit my mother. She has been ailing for months. And now this. The big earthquake has almost destroyed my home town. Luckily the tsunami did not reach to the prefecture that far inland. There were even reports of my hometown on all the TV channels. The town was not near the epicentre but close enough to destroy all those traditional houses we love so much.

 I tried to get leave but the boss would not let me go straight away.

‘The stock market is precarious,’ he said, ‘the impact of the disaster can destroy my business too. I need you here more than your mother does. Someone will take care of her.’

Luckily I had a call from my cousin, on the mobile. Mother had survived and was being cared for by good neighbours whose house was still livable. It is weekend now and I finally got away. The trains are not running yet and the main road has been cleared of debris and fallen trees. I took the car as far as I could, but for the rest, I have to walk. Even though the destruction of the place seems to be total I’m surprised how people can be so sanguine despite of it. Some who recognised me greeted me with a friendly, cheery ‘Hello’. They have experienced earthquakes before. It comes with the territory, so to speak. But it is bitter cold. Ah, well, there is enough wood laying in the streets to keep the wood stoves burning.

 As I climb over debris I can see some people use their push bikes to navigate the roads. It is amazing how quickly we fall back on trusted means when modern technology is not available any more. As I try to negotiate my way through the rubble I can see the green hills in the distance. Good to see them. There is some permanence and that is reassuring. We cling to the familiar during changed circumstances such as this earthquake.

I reach the neighbour’s house. It is leaning a bit, but still standing. Our family home across the road has been flattened. I wonder how mother was able to escape without injury. After my knock on the door a young woman opens the door.

„Aika?“, I ask. She nods, blushes and bows slightly. I haven’t seen the girl from across the road for years. She has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. When she recognises me she turns her head and calls into the house with the chirping voice of a bird in a cherry tree,

‘Mrs Fokuda, you have a visitor!’ And from the inside I’m able to hear my mother’s voice,

‘Is it my boy?’

I know I’m home again, because where mother is, there is home. Aika smiles at me. I’m so thankful to her and I feel the love, she showed to mother, is flowing towards me.