Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Do I Want the Thing to "Work"?

I am very impatient with technological devices.

I like the possibilities they open up to me. Indeed, I am drawn in by the things that I can observe or accomplish with the assistance of technology, whether it is the "older" technology of television or the newer tools such as digital cameras, word processing, or the internet with its various horizons. Once I discover how something can be done to broaden my perspective or powers of communication, I am ready to run with it.

But I expect these gadgets, programs, and connections to work.

I don't care how they work. I have zero interest in the technology itself. Well, okay, maybe a little curiosity in the beginning. But not much. I am interested in the persons, places, and things that are on the other side of these devices, and the access which they give me to them. I am decidedly not a geek.

For this reason, I feel betrayed when--having been lured into dependence on a technological medium for communication or other form of interaction with the world and with people--the stupid gadget breaks, or the program refuses to function, or the system decides that such-and-such is "unavailable" until further notice (and don't bother to ask us why).

It is as if someone took my ears away and sent me a message saying: We are sorry, but due to an auditory outage your ears will not be accessible for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Please do not contact us to attempt to find out when your ears will be returned, as this information is unavailable. Furthermore, do not attempt to use this sensory function as long as your ears are missing. Such activity may result in the loss of other sense functions. In the interim period, access to your brain will remain open.

Thankfully, there is a new kind of "doctor" in the world today: the "tech support" person. These are people who are phlegmatic enough to be actually interested in how these extensions of our senses and capacities for communication actually work. They like to tinker and fool around with the hardware and the software and the cyberspace and get things to run and even to run better, stronger, and faster. They are scientific, artistic, creative, and wise. I have great respect for them. I revere them...if they know what they're doing, that is. Like every other field of medicine, tech support has its share of quacks.

Of course, here is where asceticism is essential for not only the preservation of one's character, but also the balance of one's nerves. I have been using computers for almost 30 years, and I still don't seem to understand that when something is not working, banging on it does not help. It is in these small moments that I realize how little progress I have really made in the art of living like a human being. Acceptance of limitations. Handling obstacles and surprising circumstances. Patience. After I have had my tantrum, these challenges rise before me and I have to adapt. I have to sacrifice. I have to recognize the frailty of my own power. This is good for me. It puts things in perspective. The value of my action as a person is not in the quantitative accumulation of experiences and interaction, but in the use I make of whatever is given to me in this moment for the affirmation of what is true and good.

Sometimes it is good for things to shut down, so that I can remember why I care about the persons, places, and things "on the other side."