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Do you use a global positioning system?

Updated on February 27, 2012

Once you leave Georgetown, Penang has mostly clear roads, though admittedly they do not go very far, and a complete circuit of the island will take no more than three hours at a comfortable pace, and mostly that’s how folk drive in Penang, comfortably…

….of course we have our share of boy racers, driving fast and seeking to get not very far as quickly as possible, but mainly drivers meander rather that motor along, with scant regard for traffic lanes, indicators and red lights.

Worst of all are the motorcyclists’, buzzing like frenzied mosquitoes in and out of traffic with no regard for safety, and frequently being killed as they lose control or run into cars. The only defense is to check mirrors constantly and drive in slow motion with clear indication.

Even then you can reckon that each day you will (hopefully) avoid at least two accidents with these lunatics on two, underpowered, wheels, who are always ‘right’ if you have an accident, especially if you are a Caucasian.

Apparently the current ‘going rate’ to avoid a police problem is 50Mr, about 15$US for ‘compensation’ when they hit your car….. go figure!

See some fine vehicles as well as enjoy the 'ride'

One thing I once swore I would never have, but have come to rely upon is a Garmin GPS (global positioning system ), superfluous in my previous life, but essential in Penang, as in true ex colonial fashion the authorities changed all those quaint English street names for identities more suitable for a Muslim nation, hence mostly I have no idea what any street is called.

Of course some of the more entrenched colonial names are maintained, so Canton Street has become Jalan Cantonment, and Burma Road likewise Jalan Burma, but others like Northam Drive have become Jalan Kelawei, though locals still call it by the original name or ‘Millionaires Row' as it was also known.

In these circumstances I quickly resorted to an automated navigator system to guide me to where I wished to go, even if it does itself have problems speaking the street names!

My version has two ‘voices ’ to pay attention to, a female, who kindly tells me what the legal speed limit is for each traffic zone, and informs me when I approach a ‘Red light camera traffic junction’ (presumably in some vain attempt to discourage drivers from jumping the lights ) and a male who actually tells me when to turn right or left, and who gets very agitated when you ignore his directions, hence I hear ‘Recalculating ’ rather to frequently, and ‘Please drive the highlighted route ’ as soon as I step off the same, to take a short cut or deviation.

In many ways this reminds me of the Christian life, where we are all fitted with a Holy Spirit GPS that is programmed to direct us to the location selected, and which we also frequently ignore as we spiritually hear ‘Recalculating ’ when we take a route that is deemed to be less fortunate for us than the one planned.

As I drive, I frequently find that the GPS has selected a route that I don’t know, and which would take me from the routes I do know. I have no idea whether the GPS’s route would be faster or less distance, but I do know that my favored routes are already ingrained into my driving psyche and it’s hard for me to change direction, despite that nagging voice telling me not to deviate from the highlighted route.

The spiritual parallels are frightening!

Interestingly the GPS can recalculate in real time, and will quickly correct my route to take fresh advantage of where I have deviated, and for as long as I keep driving ‘my way’ it will keep recalculating and presenting a new route.

Unless I turn it off, and I admit that on occasion I will do that, when I want to take a more scenic drive, or remember that I need to pick up something and cannot be bothered to reprogram my destination to go ‘via’ that point.

Our relationships with God is like that in my opinion, God has His Holy Spirit to guide us, but we can always override that small voice telling us the best course to take, and even turn Him ‘off ‘ if we decide to completely ignore His advice and go our own way.

How much time would we save on our journey if I trusted Gods direction completely?

Of course God has one advantage over a GPS that will always be to our advantage, He knows where the `traffic ` bottlenecks are in advance, and how to steer us to avoid life’s ‘accidents ’, yet still we take the scenic routes through life, believing that in exercising our free will, or following a habitual route, we will be more content.

And of course the more I drive in Penang, the better I know it’s streets, and the less I am inclined to even turn the GPS on, or listen to its guidance.

Yep, the spiritual parallels are truly frightening.


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    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 

      9 years ago

      A very good read, John, and I especially liked your parallel between the Holy Spirit and GPS, although the Holy Spirit does not run out of batteries very often.

      You asked, "Do you use a global positioning system?". No, I don't. I find it takes the fun out of being lost. :0)

      Voted up, useful, interesting, and awesome!

      Best wishes and be well - C.J. Sledgehammer

    • Sa`ge profile image


      10 years ago from Barefoot Island

      Very interesting read. thank you for this hub. :D

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      Interesting parallels! The GPS speakers are rather insistent that we follow their directions aren't they? I enjoyed your wit and clarity, my friend. Thanks for the good read.

    • heart4theword profile image


      10 years ago from hub

      Nice Hub-topic, liked the way, you put it with the GPS. What I here you saying, is there is a GPS... where the system will not mis-direct you, the battery will never run out, it will always be energized:) The...God Positioned System! Great Hub analogy:)

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      10 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      It is very important not to get too dependent on natural natural resources. They dull the senses. So,our spiritual senses are made stronger by using them.

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      10 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      So true Dave.


    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      10 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      John: I don't have GPS but I do use GOOGLE MAPS often to get me from point "A" to point "B" the only problem is though in math the shortest distance between both points is a straight line, but in reality, in actuallity, we are faced with turns and detours, just like in life.

      Brother Dave.

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      10 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Problem with GPS is you gotta stay plugged into the power supply or the battery dies in a short period!

      Thank you all for commenting...


    • Disappearinghead profile image


      10 years ago from Wales, UK

      I think my spiritual GPS has a problem with an intermittent signal!! I don't know whether it's faulty kit or the signal source.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      10 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Great analogy. Thanks for sharing.

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 

      10 years ago from West Allis

      "The spiritual parallels are frightening!" That is the truth. I don't think mankind will ever be satisfied until it can see everywhere, anywhere - and possibly - at anytime (past, present and future). Thankfully, we believe spiritually, man will never possess such power. Anyway, I have never used a GPS. I'm still an old maps man and like to plot out my course - and change it at my discretion. Between the wife and kids, I don't think I need anymore voices in the car.

      I do love the spin on trusting the Lord's directions. That's one voice I cannot tune out. Peace.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      10 years ago from Arizona

      John a fine comparison, I like my GPS and love my heavenly guidance, 50


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