Anyone who owns any Apple product will already be inwardly shuddering, but let me spell out the scale of this catastrophe for the uninitiated:
It was not just any Apple product, but my NEW shiny iPad, bought for as a gift for Christmas. I use it every day for blogging and emailing and it is (was) a thing of beauty. It was on its stand, on top of the lap tray, and I was just moving it a short distance from the chest of drawers to the bed when it fell, and the heavy metal stand fell on top of it. (Note the use of the passive voice: I was an innocent bystander at this tragic occurrence).
I picked it up and thought, ‘the screen looks a bit funny’, and then I heard a slow faint crackling, almost a hiss, and before my eyes lots of circular wispy lines appeared on the screen like witches’ fingernail scratches, frozen spider webs. The screen was completely smashed, just like a car windscreen.
I stared at it completely calmly, in utter denial. Half of me was standing there thinking, ‘that’s glass – you can’t un-break it’, and the other half of me was thinking, ‘yes, but it’s an APPLE – maybe I can just switch it off and then it’ll reboot.’ (I tend to think of computers and the internet as being semi-magic. It seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to think at the time). The screen was still on underneath, so I swiped the screen. Maybe I could just use it with the cracked glass? My finger was covered in teeny tiny shards of glass, like grains of sand. This was not good.
Many things went through my mind. I thought, ‘will they even fix it or will I have to buy a new one?’
And the cost! – they’re so expensive and shiny!
And the guilt – this was a really generous Christmas present from family – how could I be so careless?
And then I thought about all the ways that I should have protected it if I had known that it was going to break.
And then back to the screen – all cracked and no way of rubbing out the cracks. I sat in shock for 10 minutes. And then I phoned the Apple guy.
Him: Hi, how may I help?
Me: It’s my iPad…
Me: The screen’s all smashed. I’m in a state of denial and panic.
Him: I can find out the price for you of a replacement, but I’m really sorry to have to tell you that it won’t be a low price…
Me: (weakly) right…
Him: (genuinely concerned) I am sorry to give you such sad news. But don’t worry too much. At the end of the day it’s just an object, isn’t it? I know that I have lots of lovely Apple products and I would also be sad if it were me, but it is just an object and you mustn’t get too upset…
I reflected a number of things on this incident. One was how nice it was that Apple provided grief counselling for such occasions as these. Another was how glad I was that we had contents insurance (see my previous post, “God is not sensible”) and that it would be relatively simple and inexpensive to replace.
But there was another feeling as well – not one of sadness exactly, but a feeling of being troubled. Staring at the cracked screen felt wrong. It just felt wrong that such a small action could cause such irreversible damage.
It felt wrong that something so beautiful, so perfect, so precious, so invincible, could be so vulnerable. So easily spoiled by my carelessness. So easily broken.
I thought of children and the seeming invincibility of youth. I thought of their shiny potential and uncomplicated energy. I thought of car accidents, throw-away words, neglect, violence. I thought of the ways that we break one another without even thinking. I thought of how God must have felt when He made the world. I thought of the lives that are precious and have been fractured; the small actions that we do that cause permanent damage.
I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a while: profound regret at the state of the world and the state of my soul.
The world is cracked from a thousand careless acts – and I am guilty.