October 26, 2013
The process of replacing my worn-out computer is now physically complete. A good friend took the aging remains from the garage and the upstairs study and carried them off to their final rest.
Their departure generated an interesting observation, however, particularly in the context of my thinking about the DELETE key and the whole business of erasing things.
My friend, thankfully computer savvy, said, “I’ll clean out the memory before I dispose of the machinery.” Says I, with airy nonchalance, “Oh, I have erased all my files.” Then said my friend with a grin, “But you don’t understand. You can’t just erase the traces of the stuff you’ve put in there. What I’ll probably do is remove the memory, place it on the sidewalk, and smash it with a sledge hammer. May soak it for a while in gasoline after I’ve hammered it. That should do it.”
Pause. Thought. Much thought.
As individuals, there is one significant sense in which our inner worlds resemble a computer. We may instruct memory to DELETE, and, while the process is neither instant nor effortless, eventually memory will file the experience in the conscious trash bin. But in a deeper sense, what we do and think, what we feel and the meaning we make of life remains in ineradicable evidence in the person we become. I cannot by choice “un-happen” an event. My inner machinery like the computer carries the evidence of the activities in which it has participated. In the context of the computer analogy, what I have done is my life, whatever ambivalence I (or William Stafford) may feel about the matter.
But there is another profound human truth that asks for recognition at this point.
Unlike machines, living systems create themselves, then re-create themselves, and then re-create themselves still again. In ways that remain beyond even the most sophisticated computer, living systems re-engineer themselves into new and distinctive “wholes” larger and more complex than the composite parts from which the “whole” was assembled.
The crucial elements in this mysterious “becoming” process for people as conscious living systems are two-fold: first, a willing awareness of possibility beyond present experience (indeed, possibility that may contradict present experience), and, secondly, the choice to risk the change required in living out this new reality.
I cannot DELETE what has been. I can, however, do something more than replicate or reposition or redefine these experiences. I am free to do something beyond conservation. I can participate in a transformation process.
Thinking with you, gratefully, that while change may entail loss, it does not require destruction. No matter the content of my life experience, God’s grace continues to provide a TRANSFORM key. Unfortunately, however, this valuable function does not operate automatically. I must choose to use it. And--sometimes to my initial discomfort---I must then live with the reformatting that results.
See you next week at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. This week required a slight galaxy detour.