Wednesday, November 23, 2011
...of impermanance and pain.
Remember how my computer died a few weeks ago? Traveled to oblivion for no apparent reason? Yeah, well I'm starting to believe that A**** has some sort of a planned obsolescence chip implanted in its wares, because shortly after I scheduled my last post, C's computer also took a leap off the digital cliff, albeit in the form of something called "a kernel panic".
That's right, even though I obviously have access to one, I am currently without a computer of my own and all that this implies.
"Well, good." Was C's rather Zen response. He is of the opinion that we don't really need those damn things for anything anyway, that they're worse than TV and anything we do on them could be done better with something else. Check the weather with a barometer. Read a newspaper. Play music. Write a letter.
In principle I agree with this, of course. We are of the generation that lived without these Universal Turing Machines for more of our lives than with them. We know people who barely touch them. I myself have been using them less frivolously (well, I guess that depends on your definition of the word) lately. All the music in the world is not my *tunes. My memories are not on *photo. My friendships are not my email. I'm not my facepoke (as anyone who's friends with me on facepoke can plainly tell, since I never use the damn thing anymore). These truths are simple and self-evident.
And no. A computer is not an essential. One could argue that it's not even that useful. Not as useful as a wood stove-heated iron, or a shed roof, a hammer, a kettle, a saw, a whisk, a fern leaf, a small porous mushroom...
And yet. I'd be lying if I told you I took this second computer calamity with an equal calm.
Never mind the fact that said machine crapped out on me in the middle of a newly started short story, which at twenty minutes and two pages in, I had not had time to back-up yet, or that I lost some glorious shots of my cat, possibly for forever.
The somewhat epic freak-out had little to do with the million and one things I could easily think up as reasons for screaming "But! I! Need! A! Computer!". I mean, I need one to keep in touch with my family and friends, scattered across the globe. I need it to write. And yes C., I do need it to blog. These are all good reasons.
I need a computer, obviously not to survive, or even get through an average day, but because it has become a useful tool for me to relate to the world, to arrange my thoughts about what is going on around me. Seriously.
When I was little, my mother always had a typewriter. First the regular kind and then, the more fleeting kind, an electric one. I remember luxuriant feeling of typing with the electric typewriter. How smoothly it moved, how it was empowering to know that I could erase things, unmake words as well as make them. Still, it did not move at the speed of thought.
In eight grade I took the first computer science class ever offered at my school. The lesson plan consisted of teaching us how to learn programming on a language long since obsolete. The goal of the class was to code ones and zeroes into making a owl sitting in tree wink. This took all semester.
Luckily for me this surprisingly arduous task was to be completed in pairs. Since I was completely uninterested with ones and zeroes I let my then best friend who was good at math, do the coding while I dicked around on the computer next to her. Mostly I used the innovative application created by the Soviet computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov. That's Tetris folks.
Then one day I discovered another game, which called for the player to type certain words and sentences at an ever increasing speed. Your fingers were supposed to do this in a particular configuration with each one assigned with particular keys of its own.
Over the semester I got quite good at this game and after a while I found that using those keys and all of my fingers, rather than just two, I was able to type as fast as I could think. This discovery sort of blew my mind. It made writing out your thoughts, observations and emotions infinitely more satisfying. That's right. Being able to type totally changed my life.
I relate to the world the first and foremost through words. Reading and writing to me are the highest from of communication. Spoken words as beautiful and passionate as they may be, so often fly out carelessly, inarticulately, filled with makeshift information and ill-remembered facts.
Perhaps because of this, I particularly cherish these relationships I have that are so dependent on typed words, both of frivolity and careful thought, peppered with images and hyperlinks and snippets of music, at the mercy of the fickle filaments of the internet.
For all the supposed disconnect this machine supposedly offers, I have found a correlating connection. For every wasted hour on the internet, there's a horde of words I want to hold onto, or a crucial piece of information unearthed.
For instance, in what now seems a rather ironic twist of fate, I found this uncollected Gary Snyder poem that rather more eloquently explains my feelings on my "need" for a computer.
Why I take good care of my Macintosh computer
Because it broods under its hood like a perched falcon,
Because it jumps like a skittish horse and sometimes throws me,
Because it is poky when cold,
Because plastic is a sad, strong material that is charming to rodents,
Because it is flighty,
Because my mind flies into it through my fingers,
Because it leaps forward and backward, is an endless sniffer and searcher,
Because its keys click like hail on a boulder,
And it winks when it goes out,
And puts word-heaps in hoards for me, dozens of pockets of gold under boulders in streambeds, identical seedpods strong on a vine, or it stores bins of bolts;
And I lose them and find them,
Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted and vanish in a flash at “delete,” so it teaches of impermanence and pain;
And because my computer and me are both brief in this world, both foolish, and we have earthly fates,
Because I have let it move in with me right inside the tent,
And it goes with me out every morning;
We fill up our baskets, get back home,
Feel rich, relax, I throw it a scrap and it hums.
I need a computer to type. I need it to stay connected.
What do you need yours for? Would you be willing to do without?