A Blessing and a Curse

First the blessing. I am entirely stoked about the new laptop. For anyone keeping track of the ongoing saga of OSC’s CPU fiasco, it has indeed arrived. And to date it has performed admirably. This thing just wants to fly–not in some Dead Poet’s Society desk set manner, but in that computation at cutting edge speeds way. I’m excited about it.

And even better, I just salvaged all my data from the old hard drive, thanks to some brilliant techies at a local computer repair shop–the real kind, with retro ads on the walls advertising Intel’s new 80386 20MHz processor with 2MB RAM (upgradable to 16MB!) and an 80MB hard disk for the low, low price of $8400 (monitor, keyboard, and mouse not included). Boy, those were the days. Anyway, the guys did a yeoman’s job at saving all my data, and now it’s all being commuted over to where it belongs on the new beast.

Truly: thank God for all that. As I’m looking over all that I’ve put onto that machine, I’m really amazed. At the very least it’s a fair amount of history. I’ve got class notes and correspondence on there from the last 10 years (I had moved a fair amount over to that computer from computers past). Every sermon I’ve ever written was on that hard disk. Family photos. Video of my kid from the day of his birth. A lot was there! Granted, a fair amount had been backed up already, but not all of it. I had experienced some write failures as I was attempting to back up that drive the very week of the disaster! Murphy’s Law, or something.

But now the curse. At the same time I’m thankful for the salvage of my data, I’m also alarmed at how much I entrust to computers. I’m not one of those technology-is-evil kind of guys. I’m the polar opposite of that guy. I’m a geek. But I find that I’m well and truly sunk when a set of circuits, wires, and plastic goes dead.

And that’s not entirely true. Were I forced to live without electricity, I could do it. I could probably provide pretty well for my family without it. My problem is that I so readily choose to live in a technology-dependent fashion. And I wonder if there’s not some inherent sin in there.

In the Large Catechism’s handling of the First Commandment we read that a god is “that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need.” Perhaps computers specifically don’t qualify as such, but I might wager my salary against yours (trust me, you make more) that technology does for many, perhaps even and especially for me. As long as things work the way they’re supposed to then everything’s right with the world. But when something goes off the wire, well, then it’s a different story.

For me it’s probably more than food for thought. I know for my own sake I need to do more to unwire–certainly not totally, but in some way.


3 Responses to A Blessing and a Curse

  1. ghp says:

    I think I know where you’re coming from on this, and I’m sympathetic to it; however, I think that it’s a bit overstated.

    The reason I say that is this — I’m not sure that if it’s troubling in a 1st Commandment way to depend on computer technology for carrying out one’s vocations (e.g., as you describe in your 3rd paragraph), then wouldn’t the same be true of depending on physical/paper copies of everyting?

    God gives us tools to do things. Certainly there can be problems when too much emphasis is spent on the tool(s), esp. if/when that emphasis detracts from what the tool is supposed to be facilitating (e.g., a pastor writing his sermons…).

    I guess I’m just saying that I’d caution against overreacting. But it’s still a good thing to be thinking about.


  2. OSC says:

    There’s a disconnect between what you seem to have understood and what I intended to convey. It’s quite possibly my fault, as I don’t know how eloquent I was. As a tool, yes, it’s good. It makes life easier. My point was that I notice an unhealthy dependency on technology in general, not necessarily the tool of the particular computer. That is, we may become so dependent upon technology and technological advance that it may begin to take the form of a god. My suggestion is that I can see how it can easily be made to fit Luther’s definition from the 1st Commandment. Is it a god to me? Probably not, honestly. I’m extremely thankful for technology. I think it’s cool, and it helps me out. But I also think geeks like me could stand to unwire a bit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If ever I was tempted to make a theodocic declaration on God’s hidden reasons for allowing something to happen, I would point to the repeated failure of technologies upon which I found myself dependant at one point or another. I’ve had so many computers crash on me, lost valuable data from projects to journal entries and all, so many occasions to reinstall my OS, and a laptop fiasco not at all dissimilar from your own (except that I didn’t get a new computer out of it!) that if anything I’ve become apathetic toward technology. I don’t trust my computer to retain the information I want to keep, so much so that I have five separate backup disks in various stages of completeness vis a vis my life’s work, not to mention hard copies of those most important files.

    More importantly though, having experiences of loss (the digital variety) have helped wean me off reliance and hope in information. To that end, one pseudogod is not nearly so alluring as before. Kudos to you for seeing the danger for what it is.

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