Alexander McCall Smith: Origami kayak company's email sign-off was a beautiful blessing
Over the weekend we received an e-mail from an origami kayak company. Now, that raises issues.
It is not every day that you hear from an origami kayak company, and there are, indeed, many who go through life without ever hearing from an origami kayak company.
Origami kayaks, apparently, are useful because they are so light. A regular kayak may look light, but may be quite cumbersome and difficult to carry, especially if one is numbered amongst the weaker brethren, which most of us are. I happen to have a pedal kayak, which is another thing altogether, and that is extremely heavy. This has retractable wheels, which enable the weaker brethren (them again) to wheel it into the water single-handed.
The attractions of an origami kayak are so obvious that my wife felt moved to write to an American origami kayak company and enquire about whether their revolutionary origami kayaks might be available in this country at any point. And that is the background to the receipt of their e-mail over the weekend.
The gist of the e-mail was that the inventors of the origami kayak were actively investigating the possibility of exporting their kayaks to Europe where, they felt, there were many people waiting for the chance to combine origami (an indoor pursuit) with the greater challenge of kayaking (an outdoor pursuit). They assured us that they would keep us informed about the progress of their negotiations.
But then came the highlight of the e-mail – the signing off. They might have said Yours truly or Best wishes, or even Kind regards. They said none of these things. Nor did they resort to the friendly and casual Cheers! with which some people put a finishing touch to their e-mails. They wrote, instead, Blessings for inner peace and unfolding freedom.
I was very touched by this. It was not as if we had written to the Dalai Lama: this was an origami kayak company. Yet here they were conferring on us their blessings, something that has profound implications. This meant that they wanted us to be fortunate, to be happy. They did not merely want us to have their best wishes or kind regards – such things are two-a-penny; they wanted to bless us. And that, of course, has spiritual significance. This was clearly a company with soul, and one that believed that others, too, were possessed of a soul.
But what about unfolding freedom? I spent several hours contemplating the significance of this. One possibility is that this wish was tied to a recognition that we share, on both sides of the Atlantic, experience of a lockdown. We are both in the same kayak together, so to speak. By wishing us unfolding freedom they were expressing the hope that we shall both be released from strict lockdown in the future, but only in an orderly manner. That is very important. Had they simply said Freedom! or something of that sort, then that might have been taken for an impatient rejection of restraint.
A cry of Freedom! might be heard on the lips of one who is hostile to the idea of caution in the removal of restrictions on travel and socialising. Unfolding freedom is freedom delivered step by step – in other words the approach being advocated by the various governments in the United Kingdom. Blessings for inner peace and unfolding freedom, now please wash your hands could even be a slogan that the authorities here might use to good effect, perhaps at the end of a rebuke directed at Rangers supporters, just to show that nothing was being held against them personally.
Then I realised that I had missed something, and that was the association of the word unfolding. And at that point I realised that this wish of inner peace, touching though it was, was linked to some form of unfolding, and that the unfolding in question was not that of freedom but was productive of freedom. In other words, if you are to achieve inner peace – a desirable goal, of course – then one way of achieving it is to buy an origami kayak that will, in turn, give you the freedom that you get from being able to get out on the water. Looked at it in this light, this charming way of signing off from an e-mail had become a piece of practical advice designed to encourage the purchase of an origami kayak.
In spite of that, I think that as a parting shot Blessings for inner peace and unfolding freedom is rather a nice way of ending an e-mail, and people may like to use it more generally.
But there are so many things to worry about in relation to e-mails. Should you, for instance, reach out to people? There is a lot of reaching out going on at present. We used to say speak to or contact, but now, it seems, we must reach out. And how do you reply to one who has reached out to you? You circle back, apparently. This sounds a bit like instructions for Scottish country dancing. Reach out to your partner, circle back, and then press send. Repeat twice.
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