I don’t know whether you have ever considered the design process of the humble paper clip. Like most people you have probably taken it for granted, after all, we each have a few lying around in one of those drawers dedicated to “items that have no home”. Prior to this simple bent wire the options of tethering papers together was limited, either utilising ribbon through a hole, or if the bundle wasn’t too thick then a pin would be inserted into the corner. Apparently it was a Norwegian, Johan Vaaler who patented the paper clip in 1901, and he had to consider the tightness it held the paper, when gathered in a pot it shouldn’t resemble metal spaghetti, it shouldn’t be difficult to apply to papers and it shouldn’t rust. In addition it should be easy to manufacture and be cheap to buy. Well the saying fits with the humble paper clip, “necessity is the mother of invention”.
Certainly the interesting jobs in my previous life as an architectural technician were those that initially had you scratching your head. Fitting a medical records library into a basement of a hospital with a floor that had a steep gradient and limited space for one, or fulfilling the exacting internal design of a swimming pool with high humidity on a budget was another, but in time solutions appeared. With each of these problems you endeavoured to find beautiful as well as practical solutions, form and function intertwined together.
Necessity forced us to think how we could be church and gather collectively for worship when lockdown forced our hand. The great benefit of this is that those who have continued to isolate, or who are unable to attend morning worship for a variety of reasons, have felt part of the church in trying times. It may not be the perfect solution, and no doubt it will evolve still further, but in our own small way it is a bit like the paper clip.
The ingenuity of the human brain is quite remarkable. Life can provide us with challenges at times, and some of those challenges can turn our world upside down, such that nothing seems grounded any more. When we are in that difficult place, the last thing we want to hear is that, “I can fix that”, after all a grieving person doesn’t want solutions, they often just want a hug. So in my current position I have learnt that I don’t need to solve every problem, because life isn’t a series of tidy solutions. Instead we all have to accept living with uncertainty or messy workarounds. There is a phrase that I wrote yesterday in a card to someone who had been in a car accident which I personally find helpful, may you find peace in the turmoil. A paperclip is a great little thing but so is holding someone who faces uncertainty in silence and without solutions.