Ghost in the Machine by Karen Lord
I suffered (and I do not use the word lightly) two serious computer crashes in the weeks before Christmas. The first one was vexing, but ultimately I was complacent about my files due to my habit of backing up data at various levels and to various degrees in about five different places. The second crash, which killed my main and largest backup drive, destroyed my complacency at last.
On my first visit to the repair shop, I met a fellow customer who turned out to be a thinker. He saw me on a borrowed computer restoring my iPod, which had also suffered during the First Crash. I explained to him that although the process would restore an iPod, it would not restore my iPod, my Caritas, with my particular blend of apps, music, vids, books and settings. However, I was not worried because somewhere in the heart of my backup was the real Caritas in potentia, waiting to be called back into being.
That reads more seriously than how I said it. At the time I was giddy with the gallows-humour of the seriously-inconvenienced, and I spoke with mock-pedantry using words like aether, virtuality and potentiality.
‘I wonder,’ he replied with sudden pensiveness after we finished laughing, ‘if everything that has ever been is still existing out there somewhere.’
I looked at him in amazement. ‘Ah. Plato. Forms. Lewis, Shadowlands, ultimate reality—sir, you are a philosopher,’ I said (more or less).
I held to that dream of accessible perfection as I brought my repaired and upgraded computer back home, restored my files and settings, safely resurrected Caritas, and endured the Second Crash soon after. I began to doubt the integrity of my computer’s ghost. Was (is?) there some corruption lurking in my system files?
Pulled back from the brink a second time, I am now treading carefully—
–but not carefully enough. The Third Crash is upon me. Yea, verily was I mid-composition on this post when my computer gave up the ghost once more. But I am not yet defeated. There is more than one virtual plane of existence for documents, and I have my recent writings online.
I fear that the days of resurrection are over for the poor ghost. I plan to create a new, minimalist system, free of unwanted remnants of applications and dodgy updates. I hope and fear that this new ghost will also have a new machine as its residence (the joy of new tech, the pain of an unexpected and large purchase). Perhaps it is for the best. A new approach to computer use might create better work habits, more focus, greater efficiency.
Losing my computer taught me what I most cared about. I wanted to write. I missed the feel of the keyboard under my fingers and the words chattering out. When I finally accepted that this was not going to happen, I got my fountain pen and some scrap paper (the reverse side of some A4 pages of Redemption in Indigo printed out for editing purposes—I’ve got stacks of that), and was content. Computers can be both tool and distraction, but a blank piece of paper is the ultimate in minimalism. I’m going to remember that when I’ve got my tech functioning again. The machine is just a machine, and the ghost is what you make it.