I was talking with a friend on the phone recently, and the topic of computers came up. She had mentioned how she was going through a period where there seemed to be always something wrong with it, and was surprised over how much emotion was arising as a result--with anger being the predominant expression. This frustration inspired many a nick-name for the electronic box, none of which would be considered flattering. After some laughs, she then asked me directly, “Why do we do this?” [referring to the personification and projection of anger towards objects], and “Where does it come from?”
And it got me thinking...of all the times I have cursed my malfunctioning electronics, forswearing buyers-allegiance to their line of product in favour of their competitive
enemies, in the hopes of motivating some kind of favourable reaction. And, on those rare occasions where a miracle intervenes, how quickly my face lights up along with the resurrected screen, reinstating our BFF relationship and assessing damage control. Yes, it is crazy, and my friend has presented me with a very valid question. One in which I will attempt, along with my (knock-on-wood) trusted gender-neutral companion, Computer, in exploring here.
Feel the Feeling, Take it Back
Of course, being the good little Choose Again student that I am (most of the time anyways), I searched my memory-banks for one of these occurrences in order to access the feeling. No shortage of material there. Then I took the triggered emotion (ie.resentment, rage, persecuted, etc) and traced it back to an earlier time in my childhood. Sure enough, I found myself reliving an event when I was four years old; I was with my Grandma, and we were playing around in the dining area when all of a sudden I stubbed my toe on one of the legs of the dining table. I immediately felt this surge of pain, followed by tears and this state of vulnerability. My Grandma quickly came to the rescue, and after hugging me, suggested I scold the table-leg for misbehaving. I perked up right away at this invitation, not fully comprehending--even at this early age--how this achievement of assault was possible by an inanimate object, but nevertheless, eager to right-the-wrongs and give it a try.
Sure enough, I did seem to feel better afterwards. It helped that my Grandmother was also reprimanding ‘it’, and that I wasn’t alone. I vividly remember glaring at the ‘accused’ table-leg every time I passed by it for the next couple of days, as if subliminally giving it the message that I was ‘on to its game’, and to stay clear.
Computer as Reflection of Self
What has also become apparent to me is my reaction to malfunctions of the computer, or other preferred electronics (ie.cell-phones) being directly related to my perception of current affairs--both internally and externally. I find that it is when there seems to be so much going on and I am feeling overwhelmed, the broken device becomes a perfect outlet to vent my frustrations, and project my own beliefs of inadequacy: “I am not to blame for ‘this’ [fill in the blank], it’s that God-damn computer acting up again”. This statement not only validates my righteous indignation, and thereby victimhood, but also cleverly conceals my underlying fears and beliefs that I am broken/not-good-enough/there is something wrong with me.
It reminds me of a common thing that people love to attribute towards themselves, of being a perfectionist, as a reason for stalling or not following through with a project. I can definitely relate to this. But it’s not so much that I am obsessed with getting everything exactly right, or getting an A+ instead of an A; what I am really afraid of is getting an F. It might not reflect that on an external level, but with regards to my own internal grading system, based on personal values and expectations, I assure you the evaluations are determined as either a pass or fail. And therefore, whenever the computer isn’t running at 100% can be another reminder of my less-than-perfect performance in any-or-all areas of life.
Computer as Facilitator of Connection
Ever since the introduction of the internet, and substantially expanded upon by online social-networking systems (SNS)--ie. Facebook (FB), Twitter--computers have opened up the world to create a sense of virtual-connection to anyone, anywhere, at the click of a button. Having lived at the Center in Costa Rica for 3 years, this ability was highly prized as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends. There is nothing inherently damaging with using this form of communication, but it became an ongoing practice of mindful awareness during those times where a storm would knock out the antennae, or a power surge fried a router, and the ability to connect was no longer present. That minor feeling of annoyance or irritation can be covering an immense feeling of loss and disconnection, which represents the human dilemma on an existential level. The same uniquely human ability of self-awareness also brings with it the fear of non-existence, which we then attempt to fervently displace with distractions; and what better means of doing so than the constant vigilance over our internet connection and FB status-updates?
There are no wires
While this reflection-piece might be seeming to turn towards the bleak, there is a bright-side to all this. Taking a line from a scene of a very popular, existentially-based movie, ‘The Matrix’, revealing the permeable nature of a spoon as the basis for our fluid reality, we come to the realization that ‘There are no wires’. Of course, one can take this on the literal level of transcendence regarding the wireless age of computation, but I am referring to the intangible aspect of content--or the absolute meaninglessness of all that we experience with the five senses. I give everything the meaning that they have. I am the one holding up the strings, or the wires, and giving life to these inanimate objects. The same can be said for every situation or circumstance I encounter; it is all neutral, and therefore, open for interpretation. How I relate, and respond, to these events depends entirely on my state of mind--to take affirmative action, coming from a clear, present perspective, or live a shadow-life, based on reacting from my past.
While there have been many who have heralded technology, and the advent of the computer, as Godless temptations and the rampant destruction of all that is pure and good, I would humbly disagree. Where else can one so readily explore one’s identity, and what makes us uniquely human, while also appreciating our absolute interconnectedness with the rest of the world? I recently watched an amazing video clip on Facebook of a wedding performing ‘the Haka’, which is a traditional New Zealand tribal war dance. The first time I watched it, I was struck by the primal energy of the dancers. It wasn’t until I saw it again, with the translated subtitles to what they were chanting, that I could fully appreciate the timeless wisdom and communion that was being presented.
My Facebook newsfeed is also bombarded with cute animal clips that I challenge any grown man not to say ‘Awww’ too, amazing acts and deeds, causes, and charities that not only protect and enhance today’s society, but the generations to come. I would not describe these as examples of hedonistic ploys of eroding our ancestors traditions and values, but more of a contemporary means of reinforcement that allows us to assimilate and creatively express the current times.
And finally, what better outlet of reflection and self-inquiry than the Computer (and its digital online-offspring) could ‘God’ ask for? It reminds me of Hafiz’s poem called ‘Tripping Over Joy’, the inspiration for this article, where the ancient poet discusses the difference of existence between a commoner and a saint, using a chess match as the backdrop. Ultimately, what separates the saint is his recognition that:
“the Beloved has just made such a fantastic move that the saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter and saying, “I surrender!”
And I assure you, when it comes to relying on the dependency and rationality of my dear friend, Computer, the only way out of the continual cycle of suffering is by recognizing this age-old insight, sitting back in your chair with a smile, and saying softly, “Well played.”
2) YouTube: Maori ‘Haka’ Wedding Dance
3) Poem: Tripping Over Joy ~ Hafez
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