The other bad day was the night before surgery. Sitting, waiting, and knowing that this is really major surgery – like some people don’t wake up, they die on the table. Okay, the odds were small, but it happens, and 5% die within 90 days. Scary!
Then I got broody. I’ve been in IT for 50 years now, starting with feeding paper tape into Atlas, or handling data transfers with a very pleasant young lady at the British Ship Research Association in Glasgow.
In the 50 years since I’ve written assorted other utilities and websites, including:
- Written Operating System modules (aka drivers) for the ICL 1900 GEOrge system.
- Co-wrote a diagnostic trace system for ICL 1900 GEOrge system.
- Designed and developed full-blown online systems from scratch for 2 employers.
- Developed 2 languages (Validation system for TPS and a adventure game writer for Dragon 32)
- Documented a complete suite of Tandem utilities for a Swiss client
They were all good. Some very good. And they are all dead. Every one. It’s like that François Villon song “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!” (Where are last year’s snows?), The hardware is obsolete, the software is dead, and all the sources on formats nobody can read any more.
It’s a depressing feeling. I’m maybe going to die tomorrow, and I’m already forgotten and outdated in my own lifetime.
Yes, sure, I was being a bit over the top, but it was me that was going to be spending 10 hours on the table being carved up by that nice lady surgeon, and telling me the death rate for the op was only 5% was not very encouraging, especially the night before, alone in a hospital bed and very lonely.
I needed something else to think about. I had my Kindle with me preloaded with books, none of which I fancied reading. I looked for other apps, because I really did not want to sleep, and ended up with the Neue Genfer Übersetzung, The New Geneva Translation of the Bible into modern German. I’d used it in the past, and I like it, so I tried it.
I’m making no vast claims about Divine Guidance for this next bit. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t, how would I know? I just looked at several Psalms, because I felt like it, and ended up at Ps 112.
I read it, then because something rang a bell, I read it in the modern English NIV. And I think the English translation is spiritualised rubbish.
Here’s the English (I’m just picking out the one example that wound me up).
Blessed are those who fear the Lord, …their righteousness endures for ever.
And here’s the German (with my English translation)
Glücklich zu preisen ist, wer dem Herrn in Ehrfurcht begegnet, …das Gute, das er tut, hat für immer Bestand
Happy and praiseworthy are those who treat the Lord with [deep] respect, …The goodness [or good things] that they do lasts for ever.
I think the English just sounds like spiritual jargon, it’s religious language. “Righteousness” – it’s an abstract idea, the kind of language gets used by long-winded preachers. I can just imagine some 19th cent preacher thundering on about it, usually without explaining what it actually was. Or if it means anything it’s a dry, joyless spirituality. It’s not connected to anything real.
I prefer the German translation, “their goodness / the good things they do will last for ever.”
That’s real. It’s about the things you do, once you’ve put yourself right with God. Not some abstract spirituality, which too often masks exploitation and abuse, but simply the things you do, to your family, your neighbours, to the people around you. What you do that is good will last for ever.
And that’s what I took with me into the anaesthetic room, not final prayers or confessions – if you’ve not got that sorted by this point you’re leaving it a bit late, but a simple determination that if I survive, then I want to leave as many good things lying around to endure. My software may have become outdated and useless, but there’s plenty of other stuff around to do. My family, my grandchildren, my clients, my friends, the people who’ve told me they’ve valued me as a person.
There’s the scripts I’ve written for the drama group, they’ve enjoyed those, and I do feel proud of them. There’s the poems and songs I’ve written, or translated from Welsh. I know they’ve given pleasure to lots of people.
That will last longer than any software. And the nice thing is that I did wake up alive, after all.