Today’s find: Ghost of the Machine

Got back from lunch with a friend on Tuesday to encounter a most disconcerting situation.

My trusty iMac – vintage 2008 – had become a bit less trustworthy.

In point of fact, it had given up the ghost. Apparently the internal hard disk seized up, rendering my machine more or less worthless. What had been the digital scribe to my muse (both personal and professional) as recently as 11:30 AM…descended by early afternoon—and almost entirely without warning—into the ‘doorstop’ phase of its existence.

Goodbye, Mac. Hello, Doorstop.

I knew I was working on borrowed time: Nine calendar years equal a millennia (or two) in the lifespans of personal computers. So just a day or two before, Gerri and I had been discussing when best to budget for a new iMac. We’d get the new machine…and transition in a more or less orderly way to upgraded operating systems and software applications.

But then the weary hard disk forced the issue…causing the ‘upgrade’ ordeal to begin in earnest, in nothing like an orderly fashion.

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is ‘yes, I DO have backups.’ A couple of different backup modes, in fact—one desktop, one online. And in a perfect world, that would have made the transition relatively painless.

Alas, we live in broken, sinful world. A world in which a backup disk can quit—way back in 2012—without showing any signs that it’s no longer on the job. A world in which a pricey online backup service saves all your familiar ‘folders’…but not necessarily all their contents. AND a world in which clever programs like iTunes and iPhoto keep getting upgraded, so far and so fast along the technology chain that they no longer recognize their grubby hillbilly software cousins from a generation or two ago.

Bottom line, the past several days have been trying, to say the least. It’s been a slog, working to revive the ghost in my machine.  Late yesterday, I managed to put the final few software puzzles in place—so I think I’m pretty much back in business.

And with the crisis past, I’ve had a chance to reflect a bit on the experience.  It occurs to me, for example, that what qualifies as a ‘crisis’ in my life…actually points to just how blessed I am. My digital distress wouldn’t even register on the scale for tens of thousands of people across the many war-torn areas of our world today.

Even the messenger of the computer failure had become, by the end of the week, a blessing to me: A blinking question mark on an otherwise gray screen.

To a techie, it says ‘start-up disk cannot be found.’ To me, it came to symbolize the idols I tend to erect in my life. Where is my heart these days? How spiritually healthy is my heart, if such a minor disruption can send me into an emotional tizzy for days on end? Could it be that God was trying to get my attention?

Then this morning, I joined in reciting the words of Tobit that appeared in the responsorial psalm for today’s Mass:

Blessed be God, who lives for ever.
He scourges and then has mercy;
he casts down to the depths of the nether world,
and he brings up from the great abyss.
No one can escape his hand.

Tobit had something to teach me, I realized. We may be scourged at times, but that is rarely the end of the story. Rather, we come to find that God is merciful. That God raises us up from the abyss—and that this is pretty much a universal condition. It’s simply part of being human.

A priest-friend and I were talking about Tobit’s experience as we headed into Menard for a Kairos reunion today. He pointed out a part of the story that we didn’t hear in the Mass readings this week—the angel’s command that Tobiah carry a bag of fish gall, heart and liver with him to provide medicine for his ailing father. The journey took several days—a point which caused my friend to quip: ‘Sometimes, the way God chooses to help us—it STINKS!’

Having been through the computer failure, and its spiritual lessons, over the past several days, I can only say ‘Amen.’ And perhaps join in with Tobit, as he exclaims:

So now consider what he has done for you,
and praise him with full voice.
Bless the Lord of righteousness,
and exalt the King of ages.

  1. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.





Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.



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