A computer is an interesting beast. The laptop I am currently using is one I have had since 2016, which makes it almost a dinosaur in Microsoft years. It works just fine for the fairly limited tasks I need it to do (it can pull up a mean crossword puzzle…), but there was a problem with it.
When I set up computer, yea verily so long ago, apparently I set it up wrong. I used my normal private email as the access username, but then the conference office reset it up using my conference email address. This is something you should not do, I have discovered. It all ran hunky-dory until it came time for me not to use the conference email anymore, and instead become a private civilian. At that point, it was clear that for the last number of years, I had relied on the conference username, and my private one had been blissfully sleeping. (This is the best way I can describe it…)
The time had come for me to bid a fond farewell to all things annual conference, and to assume among the powers of earth my own private email. Now, left to my own devices, the handiest way for me to make that switch would have been to clear a small area in the backyard, douse the laptop in charcoal lighter fluid, and set the thing on fire. Handy, but probably not giving me the best resolution.
So, I did the next best thing. One of the positive things the pandemic has done is that it has quarantined both of our adult sons in our basement (what we call “the garden level”), which means that for the price of electricity, gas, water and internet, and all the food we can cook, I have a ready staff of two computer experts at my disposal. With their knowledge of computers, I expected the process to take about 15 minutes. I of course was terrible wrong in that estimate.
I did manage to do one thing right, in that I had a brand new, two-terabyte backup hard drive, which was enough to backup the entire Manhattan Project, and that piece was actually very simple to operate. Those were my only fingerprints on the process. I assumed that the next step would be to simply “click and drag” everything on one user “thing” to the other user “thing.” This was not so. Not so at all.
I remember when I was a little boy, and couldn’t figure out something, I could take it to my Dad, who would “fix” whatever it was that was not working, while I stood awkwardly waiting for him to do the work. Now, I found myself once again standing awkwardly while one or two of the sons worked to create a new pathway or burn some village or something in order to make what was once a functional laptop into a newly functional laptop.
The computer fairies in charge of my machine chose not to cooperate. The conference user “thing” would not die. It would not adapt to a new reality. It was plain stupid.15 minutes stretched to two hours, and there was football to be watched, I guess. The staff decided to go back downstairs and do further research on how to make all things new, while watching their favorite teams play.
This meant I would not be writing a column on Sunday, since, metaphorically speaking, we had taken the engine out of the computer car, and took it all apart to do a rebuild. Eventually, a game that they didn’t want to watch came on, and they came upstairs to retackle the beast.
It was then that I accidentally offered a plan: wasn’t it possible, if all the data had been saved on Mr. Terabyte, that they could simply slay the computer beast, and do a total restart of the system, and the rebuild it in the image of randycross57? My computer experts looked at me as though I had three eyes, and then looked at each other and said, “Yeah, that could work – it just means having to re-do everything, but you don’t have much on the computer anyway (that was their way of gently saying, “Oh Dad, you poor old guy – maybe we should just get you a pen and pad of paper…”).
So – new project Obliterate and Rebuild began. I resaved everything, and then with a few strokes of the computer keyboard, there a huge flash of light, and time traveled in the opposite direction, and the angels sang – well, the screen went black and then started its slow rebuilding. After the better part of an hour, it started moving through the steps of asking my questions about my favorite color, and if I liked dress clothes or sweat pants better – all those personal things that only a computer can ask.
Finally, the clouds once again parted, and the computer looked quite normal. At that point, it was time for bed, so we agreed to take on stage two – reloading the data – on Monday. That next morning, I plugged in Mr. Terabyte, and expected with the stroke of a keyboard key to have everything back in place in their new homes. This was another error. Apparently, you can backup everything in the known universe in a moment of time, but to send everything back to their proper places, it requires an ENORMOUS amount of clicking and dragging and moving into folders. I had probably ten different folders of picture that I had taken over the last five years, and with a minimal amount of effort and knowledge, I managed to take the folders and throw them out the back door, leaving only hundreds of disorganized individual pictures to be once again clicked and dragged into folders. This of course meant that the column would not be written on Monday (yesterday). Just to let you know – if you ever need a computer wrecker to destroy any semblance of order on your enemy’s machine, feel free to call me.
After more hours of work and impatience, I think I have my “new” computer running pretty well. There are still about 20 different things sitting on my “desktop” and I have no idea where they should go, so I’m leaving them there for safekeeping for now. My conference connection is completely deleted and pulverized, and I am totally a civilian for the first time since I have ever owned a computer. Things seem to be running fine, without glitches, once I figured out how to make my computer type large enough for old eyes to see it.
This has been a good lesson for me, to realize that in my journey to live intentionally in this life, it’s not an either/or work. Even while I try to do things “on purpose,” thoughtfully and deliberately, woven within those intentions will always come accidents. There are times when the best plans become derailed by life itself. Sometimes, the best that can be produced is “pretty good,” as we have to recover from what simply looks to be accidents, errors, and miscalculations. Yes, there are times when we can look at intentionality through a microscope and study the tiny errors made as we seek to do things perfectly.
Sometimes, however, the best we can do is to look through the telescope at our lives, and our work, and judge them to be “pretty good,” and a success after all, given the accidental nature of so many things on our path. I believe Jesus saw perfection as a journey, not a moment, and it was less in the flawless performance of pieces of our lives, and more the evidence of how we are able to love – accidents and all.
So – the Fourth Life is back! Thanks for hanging in there…
Word for the day: beautiful. You know how it’s pronounced: BYOO-ti-full. Of course, it means “pleasing to the eye, ear, mind or heart.” It breaks down to beauty+full, so when we look at “beauty,” we find it comes from the Latin bellus, (we heard bella in Italian), and it means “pretty,” or “charming.” Actually, the word in its original sense was meant to be a compliment to women and children, but it really stood as an insult to men. How often would you hear, “He’s a true beauty?”
The old saying of course, is ever true – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is perhaps the most subjective opinion you can ever hold. What is “beautiful” to you? Sometimes it is what you see, or sometimes it is the sound you hear. More profound “beauty” of course is found in what you think or feel. What changes you? What enlivens you? What brings joy into your existence? It could be as common as a steak perfectly grilled, or one our coral colored roses still blooming after the first frost. It could be experienced in that just-right chord progression of a song, or even more profound, realizing love in the eyes of that person you love as well.
Spend your time experiencing beauty today.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.