Telephones today are a very advanced form of technology around which our lives revolve.   It is easy to forget that there was a time when they didn’t exist. Someone invented it. Someone saw beyond what is to what could be. Someone saw the potential of a different way of doing things.

Alexander Graham Bell is the person attributed to having the vision, and here’s a question for you.  What were the first words spoken over the telephone?  I have always understood them to be the words of Bell to his assistant “ Watson, I need you”.

For me personally they have been very significant words. I have seen them as a call from the future, a call from what some of us refer to as “God”.  My working definition of God at the moment has nothing to do with some kind of all powerful heavenly being determining whether we will go to heaven or hell. God for me is the dynamic urge to fullness of life – an urge within every living creature, and one that I have related to in terms of the first words over the telephone.

The words have led me into some odd places,  food development in south east Asia, aboriginal settlements, prisons  (both as a an outside worker and a  four day  inmate after a demonstration) war zones and many other odd places.

The last mentioned of these illustrates the point well. On my return from Iraq and the Shock and Awe bombing, people kept asking me why a sensible person like me would do such a stupid thing. I had difficulty in answering them. My eleven year old grand daughter had no such trouble and wrote in a school essay “My grandpa is going to Baghdad to comfort the Iraqis while the Americans bomb them. You may think he is nutty but I am proud of him. He does what is right and he does it for other people not himself. On the day he left he had every TV station apart from Channel 7 interviewing him. When he left we were all very upset. Poor grandma will have to live on her own for six weeks or maybe forever. I love grandpa very much and I hope he will return”. I loved the bit about being interviewed.  Eat your heart out Channel Seven!

What was the reason for me going to Iraq? If I am honest I would have to say that it was because of the first words spoken over the telephone. Nothing more, nothing less – simply “Watson, I need you!” It was simply a matter of call and response.

What brings all this to mind? I learned yesterday that “Watson, I need you” weren’t the first words spoken over the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell didn’t even invent the telephone! It was invented by an Antonio Meucci and we have no idea what were the first words spoken over the telephone.

At my age it’s a bit late to go back to the drawing board. I think I’ll stick with the fable and keep listening. It has certainly led to an interesting life with very few regrets.

Neville

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