Friday, February 24, 2017

Just a hunk a junk

Long ago in a far-away land… (“Tamo daleko, daleko od mora…”)

We actually it was in Belgrade, then the capital of the Union of Federated Socialist Republics of Yugoslavia, in about 1986.  I wanted to buy a short-wave radio.  I was also looking for a cassette tape player. (No Millenial better say, “A what player?”)

There was a Philips store in Belgrade, or at least one that had Philips brand products.  I didn’t want to buy a lesser brand, though I doubt there was a lesser brank that had what I wanted.

I saw the radio in the picture above in the display window.  It was new and shiny.  For its day, it was high-tech electronics.

I told the clerk that I wanted to buy it.  He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “Why do you want to buy it here?  You could buy it in Vienna for half the cost.  The taxes double the cost!”

I told him I would likely have to pay the taxes at the border, if I imported it.  Besides, I said, I want to help the country I am in.

He shrugged and wrote up the receipt.  I paid at the cashier and returned for my parcel.

I’ve been using that radio since 1986.  Unfortunately, somewhat like myself, some functions don’t work as they did or should.  At some point the cassette tape player quit.  From experience with other cassette players, I realize that the bands, which move the spindles, wear out.  I replaced the motor and bands in a “boom box” I had, after I spent a lot of time finding the motor, and then taking it to the repairman.  He did the repair, though he said it would likely not last more than a year.  He said I should just buy a new radio/ cassette player.  He was right…

Anyway, the Philips radio can still play AM, FM, MW and short-wave (several bands).  Over time, however, somethings became obsolete.  There are still some AM stations, but they are fewer.  BBC dropped its AM station in NL.  FM still plays fine, though it’s always a trick to get the antenna to stay where it ought to be; it seems to need an infusion of something to stay up; Viagra for antennas?

There are also some Middle Wave (MW) stations, but again they aren’t of interest to me or don’t come in well.  Short-wave radio used to be the only way, besides records LPs / vinyls or cassette tapes to hear a foreign language; in my case Russian while in college.  There still is a Radio Moscow and a Radio Bejiing.  There are some stations from Arabic speaking places, etc.  But short-wave is largely dead due to the innovation of the internet.  Anyone anywhere who has an internet connection (and there’s no government restrictions or “jamming”) can listen to probably every language known to man. 

Still my radio has its place in the house: on the cabinet where we keep our toiletries in the bathroom.  It plays either nice classical music or rock music on some one or other FM station.  I don’t have patience to try to tune in short wave anymore.

Sometimes I feel like my old radio looks, a fossil from another age.  My paint is worn off and some functions don’t work like they should.

But I have my function too.  I do what I can.

I used to think the race was to the swift and the strong.  Now I know that the race is to the dogged and determined.

Pittsburghers like to refer to themselves as Pluggers.  You “plug along”.  I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase, maybe a steam train, the “Little Engine that Could”?

I realize as I get older that it’s not the fantastic things you do that are the most important.  Most intelligent people with determination, will and opportunity can finish a PhD.  It’s an achievement to celebrate, but it’s not the be all and end all of life.

I tell my students every year, several times a year, that I don’t want to hear anyone tell me that they are Spirit-filled. if they do not show Christ-like character in how they treat others.  I don’t think Jesus or Paul cared much about experiences.

Experiences are great and may determine many things for us, like God’s call to mission in our lives.  However, what Paul judges a person by is their character, not their spiritual gifts, particularly not the flashy ones. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

The older I get the more I think about how basic machinery lasts longer than dashpots and “brain boxes”.  Old Soviet era cars may not be lovely, but they can be repaired, and they can last twenty years.  The US Space Shuttle program has ended, but the Soviet Soyuz rockets and capsules still go to the International Space Station.

We like flashy, new technology.  We read the latest books.  But sometimes the old model is just what we need for a certain function… and the old Book is the best.

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