Slipping my cellular phone back in my bag, I’m no longer awed by its potential to hook me up with the world at the push of a button. It may connect me with my daughter in Vermont or my friends in California in an instant, or it may let me surf the web or catch a video clip, but it’s just the norm. Nothing special! Nothing to write home about…and yet, it wasn’t all that long ago when none of it was possible and the inventors of direct communication were awed when they achieved the most rudimentary form of connection.
Today is the 166th anniversary of the invention by Samuel B. Morse of the telegraph. On May 24, 1844, Morse in the U.S. Supreme Court Chambers in Washington sent by telegraph the oft-quoted message to his colleague Vail in Baltimore, “What hath God wrought!” It was a monumental achievement. Via a series of dots and dashes, a code was developed that could be interpreted and understood. It was indeed worthy of wondering just what God had brought forward in inspiring this form of communication.
In just a handful of years, Morse had helped to create what became Western Union, a company that provides transactions around the globe with ease and simplicity. Western Union is still wired to deliver. In just a few short years, the telegraph announced the election of Abraham Lincoln and later the end of the Civil War. It earned an incredible place in history, offering a form of communication where every word had to be meaningful; every word had to count.
Wow! We’re right back to that humble beginning with Twitter. Every character has value from the letters to the blank spaces and each one determines how much more you can say. Before the telephone or the radio, the telegraph was the most amazing form of communication, giving vital information to people who lived hundreds of miles apart. It was a godsend.
Fast forward to Twitter, where we again must measure our words, perhaps with extraordinary skill, perhaps just letting the business of life dictate how much we’re willing to post today. Looking at it now, I’m humbled by what the efforts of early inventors meant to our information starved country in helping it develop and grow. On the opposite scale, today we find ourselves digesting huge bits of information that we never wanted to swallow, gulping down portions that are beyond our comprehension because every detail of every imaginable topic from good to evil is there for those who want it. Now I feel the need to ask that very question from 1844, “What has God wrought?” In fact, now I wish God would do what he did at Babel, and just confuse the language so we can’t understand everything. (Okay, maybe that part continues anyway.)
We need to share those things that honor our humanity and guide our thinking to reach out and build a stronger network for good. We do need that. However, the connection between us needs to be strengthened even yet, in spite of all the opportunities to get online or greet each other through social media. I wonder what Morse would say if he could Twitter today.
With greater connection comes greater responsibility. How we communicate electronically, face to face, day to day is worth a reality check. Morse was inspired. May we be inspired as well with every word that comes from our mouths. May we truly communicate from the heart of the matter.