I recently read a review of a book (Shakespeare's Blackberry) which examines the impact of our addiction to technology. The author argues that we need to learn how to step away from this addiction and find space in our lives for doing less, perhaps even doing nothing. He says that the sign of real wealth in our modern society may lie in being part of the group who can afford to turn off. People who can live independent of technology. In some cases this might be because being independently wealthy reduces the need to engage in employment and its associated technological demands. Or it could be that those who choose to live simply, self sufficiently, relying on face to face communication and resisting the need to have 200+ "on line friends" are rich in ways only wealthy people can imagine.
What's this got to do with Marina? Well she is a young woman who I met in person once and to whom I sent a single postcard. That's two contacts over a period of 23 years and yet, she holds a special significance in my life.
I've written about her previously and won't repeat the story. In summary she was a 25 year old who assisted my wife and I to look for my Italian ancestors when we visited her town. We had the good fortune to find Marina at the local Orsago Municipio (Town Hall). She shut up shop for the afternoon and drove us from village to village knocking on the doors of Catholic Parish churches and practicing her English on us.
By a serendipitous event (involving a middle distance relative) I had recently acquired her email address (something which she didn't have in 1988). So I sent her an email asking her how her life had unfolded. Now three months later she has replied.
She is now forty eight. She says her English is poor but it's a lot better than my Italian. She says:
.. my God .. I remember and I will amaze you. I conserve your post card with your address. There isn’t the date, but the memories does not to delete."
I love that Marina speaks about not deleting my postcard from her memory. I value being in her memory much more than being in some data bank.
"I work in the same office and in the same writing-desk and I like a lot my work. I had a good life, not many money but I had a good health."
I have moved jobs four or five times since 1988, and, while I've enjoyed every move, there is some comfort in the thought that one can be happy without constant change. Marina is not sedintary as she goes on to talk about travel and driving tours of Europe seeking out "the beautiful things make by nature and by the man"
She goes on:
"Orsago, my lovely little country, is the same.
Now the population are about 4000 persons.
In Orsago there is 10% of foreign people, above all from Albania, Macedonia, ex-Jugoslavia, Romania, Marocco, Egitto, Ucraina, Moldavia, Nigeria, Senegal, …
They are not very accepted.
Italian People don’t remember that many years ago, from Italy, from Veneto, from Orsago also many family go away to look for work.
They went in Australia before, after in Brasile and Argentina in the end of 1800, more recently (in the 1950-1960) in Canada, Svizzera, Belgio, Francia, …
Italian People don’t understand the we are the citizen of the world, non only citizen of our house."
A comment is hardly necessary. My great grandfather was a refugee escaping poverty in northern Italy for a better life in Australia. We humans seem to go around in ever decreasing circles generation after generation driven by fear of those different from us. Ironic given that many of us live in immigrant and colonial countries.
"So our meeting with mail and internet after 23 years had provoke in me emotions, surprise, delight, astonishment, and I don’t know, I understand that even we are distant thousands of kilometers Orsago and Australia are near"
How neat is that?