Wrapping up the holidays

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Parents can recall Christmas morning and a toddler opening presents. The child is overwhelmed by it all: the excitement of tree lights, packages piled high, the sound of wrapping paper tearing. But the child never gets to the presents. The little one has too much fun playing with the wrapping paper. This holiday season presented a variation of that for me. Albeit, it was not colorful wrapping paper that distracted me from the electronic gadgets I received. Rather, a personal letter, written on paper, not faxed, not e-mailed, not left on my voicemail, from a dear friend whom I hadn't heard from in years. The communication, not the medium, was the message. I read it twice. What a delight. No whirr of a hard drive to distract from the cadence of my friend's language. It was as if he were in the room with me. Meaning and memory filled my imagination as I had the time to think about my friend - what he was doing, had done, and will do - in a way I wouldn't if electronic communication had been used. Laurent Belsie (at right) assesses the status of our wireless communications. Where they are leading us. What we might be losing. He does not bemoan progress. For someone in an emergency on an isolated road, a cell phone can be the difference between safety and disaster. In Africa, satellites and wireless phones leapfrog telecommunications into the 21st century. A child's fascination with glittering paper suggests the essence of play. The gift of a personal letter presented me with the essence of communication. Comments or questions? Write to Ideas editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail Ideas@csps.com

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