A computer program that writes love letters has become a runaway success in China.
The 'Magic Love Letters' program has already been downloaded more than 20,000 times.
Users need only type in the sender's and the recipient's names and the number of lines they want and the programme will suggest one of 10,000 different love letters.
Many of us need help, at one time or other in our lives, in knowing how to make sure someone we care about or love realizes it. Our actions will often say it loudly and, of course, our verbal declarations will only be believed if loving behaviour accompanies them. But the difficulty is often that our beloved doesn’t believe in our love, not because it isn’t there but because of their own lack of self-worth. When someone has done something they particularly regret or have badly let themselves down, when their own ability to love themselves has shrunk to zero, they find it especially difficult to believe that there is somebody who is prepared to go on loving them in spite of it.
It is in situations like these that communicating our love is both especially important and especially difficult. Standard, downloaded solutions won’t work. Success in enabling our struggling beloved to believe they are still loved will come from a combination of good timing, a choice of words that comes from knowing them really well and a well-honed intuition. But it’s worth persevering – even a fumbling and initially rejected attempt is better than any pre-packaged formula, however finely-worded.
After the 1997 general election, Tony Blair's father, Leo, wrote to him at Number 10 saying how proud he was that he had become Prime Minister. The letter was signed: "Your loving Pa." But the Prime Minister's office could not decipher much of the handwriting and penned an impersonal response addressed to Mr L Pa. 'Dear Mr Pa,’ it said, ‘Thank you for your letter to the Prime Minister, the contents of which have been noted. Unfortunately we cannot take up your suggestion but we suggest you contact your local MP or Citizens Advice Bureau'.
We have all experienced the embarrassment of not making ourselves clear and so of being misunderstood. But people seem especially to fail to hear clearly when it’s affection for them or appreciation of something they have done that’s being expressed. There seems to be something in many people’s psyche which protects them against hearing that they are loved or have done well. It often takes more than gently implied praise or a hint of fondness to break through many people’s deep-seated sense of being inadequate and unlovable.
This applies also to God’s attempts to convince us that we are all divinely loved. God’s ‘letter’ telling us this was Jesus, the Word made flesh, but something in our human nature stops many people understanding what God is trying to say. Perhaps today it’s worth listening again to Jesus’ affirmation in his words and actions that God loves each of us – and remembering that when we want to convince others of our affection or pride in them, we may need to be especially clear and direct in how we express it.
Groggy, sleep-deprived students at Brown University in Rhode Island have invented a new alarm clock that gently wakes snoozers during the lightest phase of their sleep cycle.
Using a microprocessor and a headband equipped with electrodes, it records different brain waves made during each phase of the sleep cycle. The information is wirelessly communicated to the clock.
"You program the clock with the latest time at which you want to be awakened, and it duly wakes you during the last light sleep phase before that," New Scientist magazine has reported. "Its makers say this will ensure you wake up feeling refreshed every morning."
It sometimes falls to us to work out how to avoid giving someone a rude wakening. We may feel it’s right to give information to a friend which might upset them, offer them a word of warning, or challenge them to make a different decision from the one they’re planning. But the question remains how and when to do it.
Jesus was sometimes very blunt; sometimes he told a story inviting his listeners to see themselves in one of the characters; sometimes he gradually led the conversation towards the point he wanted to make.
Each situation is different. We need to deepen our awareness of the inner working of those close to us. Then the method and timing of any appropriate but unwelcome comment might be more obvious to us. It won’t be electrodes that provide us with the information but that deeper level of communication used by Jesus and called love.
All 112,000 tickets for this year’s Glastonbury music festival sold in less than three hours on Monday. A feature this year will be a "silent disco". Instead of DJs blasting their sounds through speakers, thousands of revellers partying past midnight at the open-air music event will be given wire-free headphones with volume controls that directly tune in to a sound system.
"It's a unique way for people to party without offending those who want to sleep or disturbing the villagers nearby,” said Mr Eavis, who founded the festival in 1970. "We've been looking at this ‘silent dancing’ solution for ages. The system was developed by a Dutch firm and successfully used at parties in the Netherlands and we hope it works here too."
Sometimes people don’t even need the same music in their ears to move in tune with each other. We human beings have been given a capacity intuitively to know what other people want. Words and even gestures become superfluous as family members, lovers, close friends know instinctively what the other is thinking, feeling and wanting. Such intimacy is a delightful human gift.
For people attuned to God, such closeness is party of that relationship. The Psalmist speaks of God knowing our thoughts and what we intend to say before we say it (Psalm 139.2, 4). To be known so intimately by one who uses that knowledge in such gentle and encouraging ways is an experience to be treasured.
After Babs the gorilla died at age 30, keepers at Brookfield Zoo decided to allow surviving gorillas to mourn her. Babs' 9-year-old daughter, Bana, was the first to approach the body. She sat down, held Babs' hand and stroked her mother's stomach. Then she laid her head on Babs' arm. Other gorillas approached Babs and gently sniffed the body. Koola brought her infant daughter and held her close to Babs, as she had frequently done when Babs was alive. "I had a headache for the rest of the day after all the tears I cried watching them," said their keeper, Betty Green.
Touching was central to the way these gorillas expressed their grief. There are many other emotions touching can convey. Comfort, affection, reassurance, sympathy as well as greeting and farewell can all be physically expressed.
One of the messages of Christmas is that God wanted to be able to express feelings in physical ways. By being born in the flesh, God made bodily contact with the world. Jesus nearly always touched those he was healing.
Perhaps today as we use our hands and bodies to communicate with those we care for, let’s be grateful for touch, for the extra emphasis it gives to the way we convey our feelings and for its ability to say what words sometimes can’t.
The residents of Cape Town claim to have found an effective new weapon in South Africa's battle against crime: staring. In Sea Point, groups of up to 20 residents, wearing yellow bibs, go on patrol, armed with nothing more than filthy looks. The groups stop and stare in silence at suspected prostitutes, kerb crawlers and drug dealers. Crime levels have reportedly tumbled.
The messages our eyes convey are many and complex. The look Jesus gave Peter after he had betrayed him (Luke 2.60-62) must have had many layers of meaning and spoke in ways that words, had they been possible, could not have conveyed.
Attentiveness, amusement, sympathy, alliance and delight are all part of the eye’s vocabulary as well as disapproval, sadness and anger. Occasionally eyes will speak a truth which words are trying to hide. Let’s enjoy today the alternative method of communication offered by our eyes and hope that we might bring a sparkle into other people’s eyes by what we say with ours.
Adam Jacot de Boinod has trawled through 280 dictionaries and many dozens of Internet sites to find interesting words from the world’s languages. The Inuit’s, for example, have a word - "areodjarekput" – for the practice of exchanging wives for a few days to help pass the time in the long winter nights. Danes use the word "olfrygt" to describe the fear arising from a lack of beer.
And the Japanese speak of "bakku-shan", a woman who looks attractive from the rear but not from the front. The title of the book, "The Meaning of Tingo", takes its name from the language of Easter Island. Tingo means to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there is nothing left.
Many of us know what it’s like to be unable to find the words to express what we mean. Sometimes, we simply lack the necessary breadth of vocabulary. Sometimes our minds have gone blank because of the accompanying circumstances. Perhaps the thoughts we want to communicate are still taking shape – only as we struggle to articulate what is emerging in our minds do we ourselves begin to discover what we are thinking; the ideas take shape partly through the process of trying to express them.
But occasionally there just aren’t the words for what we want to say. Our feelings are just too deep or complex for any language to be able to express them. This is perhaps particularly true of feelings of deep affection and love – thank goodness we have other ways than words to express such emotions. It also sometimes applies when we try to convey our spiritual awareness. In the book of Revelation, there is silence in heaven at a particularly significant moment. Sometimes, this is the only appropriate response.
Let’s be grateful today for words – and for those times when even they are not enough.