FOR REASONS THAT aren’t quite clear to me, when the hubbie and I put in a new office for me to work in, I decided that it was just way too much bother to move my teensy tiny little laptop from where it lives in the main house to the new office and vice versa. Besides, I told myself, if I have a new laptop, well then, hubbie can use the one in the main house when he needs to, and I can write away happily all by myself.
I’m one of those writers who must have total and complete silence when pounding away at my keyboard. I can live with instrumental music, but I just can’t hit the zone when I am trying to write while listening to another person speak, whether the hubbie or a radio announcer, whatever. If it has words, my ability to concentrate goes “poof” and vanishes.
So, I did show some restraint and bought what its manufacturer calls a “renewed” machine. They mean “rebuilt,” though “rebuilt” is actually reserved for “rebuilt, but you can see the rough edges, such as little lines on the screen or scratches on the case.”
The rebuilt computer is actually pretty clean and in better shape than my other laptop. I told myself the stuff we tell ourselves when we do something that shows our privilege a bit too much. Mine was spectacular, if I do say so: “I can test this as a first step towards a grant to put a small computer lab, say, in a church.”
Not a bad idea, actually, but first it led to a quick jaunt to Geekdom.
I love fiddling with technology. This is how I ended up with seven old-style slide projectors. The kind that actually use slides and that you pull in and out, with a good and satisfying CLUNK and you can see the slides disappear and appear from the right and to the left. Art History professors love slides because their color range is deep and very true to the original. I love slides because only one company still makes them. They’re almost defunct.
So — to get to my title — I had me a nice new(er), out-of-the-box laptop with little to no software other than the operating system in place. And so I could fiddle and did for the next 10 hours straight, ending only because my poor husband called me and said, “Do you think we could have supper soon?” That’s when I found out it was already 10 p.m.
But the fiddling was both frustrating and fun, and I got deep into the guts of the operating system, where I was happy. I like the nitty gritty, absolutely accurate nature of dealing with code. It has no forgiveness. Even if you’re just copying a command from a web page, you have to enter it exactly correct.
Meanwhile, that process is mysterious to those who are not initiates. (Usually, this is evidenced by a cry of “aren’t you done yet, I need my computer back!”)
The soul is like that, too, while learning how to love each other more deeply. It comes out perfect as can be from the hands of God, but in this imperfect world and while dealing with other imperfect people, our inner selves can get a bit bogged down.
I’m not talking about original sin here (the belief that Adam and Eve’s sins get transferred to all their offspring which is another topic for another day), but instead just the delayed maintenance of day-to-day life. Some days, we just feel like we can’t go on.
Like a car engine or a laptop or other complicated stuff, we all need tune-ups from time to time — rest perhaps, or a visit to a doctor or a therapist.
We find ourselves a bit impatient with others from time to time. And to make real changes under our hoods? Hard work. Lots of hard work.
Patience, understanding, tolerance of difference, all these may need upgrades of our inner selves. I’m fond of Benedict’s Rule for monks. It’s a document that basically preaches tolerance and love for one another, for the very precise purpose of living together as a community without wanting to murder another monk for once again putting an empty quart of milk back in the refrigerator.
And sometimes, well sadly, sometimes we just can’t get along no matter how hard we try. That’s part of human life as well (for all of us, not just religious folks).
We trigger each other’s insecurities. Our habits rub on each other.
Sometimes, the best form of reconciliation is to move on. Y’all know I love advice columns. They often advocate folks working out issues that have gone back decades or even generations. Sometimes that can work. Sometimes not. If the latter, moving on to a new situation or set of relationships is good for everyone.
But even those experiences are schooling in the act of loving each other.
It isn’t always easy, and loving doesn’t necessarily include liking, but we can practice over and over again, rewriting our lives as we go.
So we pray for each other as we move into and out of community, and through change.
We will all come round to the right place in the end, with God’s help.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Keith Dorwick is a deacon resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.