By Rhona Canoy
SO… Because of all the stuff I do, I was roped into technology very early on. I deeply appreciate the ease afforded me by computers and smart phones, apps, and the internet. But more than anything, I’m grateful for the fact that I learned to use these things much later in my life, and that I remember a time when technology was a cassette tape recorder, an electric IBM typewriter, and a rotary-dial analog telephone attached by wires to the wall of the house.
My laptop went into a coma today. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see whether it regains consciousness or whether I’ll have to cremate it. But that’s not the issue. I mean, it is a dinosaur which I inherited from my brother. It used to belong to my niece when she was a senior in high school, and is now an architect. The thing is at least fifteen years old. Taking into account how quickly tech evolves these days, what it is is low-tech slow-tech. But it has served me well.
What bothers me is how sad I am that this thing is finally dying. I have years of stuff stored in there, stuff which I never bothered to save somewhere else because I always thought there would be time. It’s true that current technology lets us be cavalier with what it gives us. How many times do I watch other people whip out their phones to take pictures and videos of something that is supposed to be significant? At school programs, parents jostle to have the best vantage point. Watching movies, pictures of food, clothing, beer bottles — these all get documented. And yet, I often wonder what happens to these clicks.
I know people rarely print pictures out into actual photographs anymore. Scrapbooks have been relegated to hobbyists. So where do these countless clicks go? And what are they for? I ask these questions because it breaks my heart that if my T-rex cannot be revived long enough to retrieve all my data, years of precious pictures which I culled and chose from my digicams and smart phones will be lost forever. Pictures which I carefully took to document special circumstances, special people, special places — all of which I wanted to remember and to share with others.
But then, it occurs to me that those things are special only to me. So maybe I’m overstressing about it. Will those who are left behind know the value of those images after I’m gone? I mean, I spend hours going through my mother’s collection of old pictures. Pictures which were painstakingly saved because they were so rare and actually cost money so their value is many-fold. Images of people whom I don’t know, long-ago and faraway places I don’t recognize. I know these meant something to mama because she would spend hours going through them, staring at particular ones with fond and wistful smiles. I regret never taking the time to ask her to tell me about them. Their meaning is gone now that she is gone.
And I grieve for all my writing which is stored in that old piece of machinery. Words which I will never be able to assemble in the same way that I did when they jumped from my brain through my fingers onto the soft-click keyboard. A lot of my writing was done for my own pleasure and purpose. Yes, this column tasks me to compose an essay every few days for you (my loyal band of readers) to ponder and mull over. But it is my life’s documentation that is resident in the memory chip of that laptop which I will miss most. In reading through my journals, I see how I have evolved and how the world has changed around me through the years.
Those words perhaps will find more usefulness for others than the images I have saved through the years. But then I look at this statement and wonder just how self-important I think I am. After all, everyone has a history and everyone has images to document this history. It occurs to me that all this is special only to me. And that perhaps what I grieve is what this loss means to me. Someday someone will look through my pictures and wonder who these people are, forever captured in that single click. And where these obscure places are which I deemed beautiful enough to be saved in that single moment.
Gold Star Daily will have my columns saved in their archives, I suppose. For as long as they’re worth saving and digital memory can be spared. But after I’m gone, these words which wander through other people’s consciousness for a few minutes each week will have hardly any meaning. As they hardly do now. Forever will I be grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Never to know if they make an impact, or even if they matter at all.
But my laptop is dying. I think I grieve because it feels like part of my consciousness is dying with it. I look through those pictures, and I am surprised at what the images and words have held in storage for me. The pleasure of realizing how much I had forgotten and how much these things are there to remind me. For in truth, human memory is the most frail and faulty of all records of the past. Science tells us not to trust what we remember, if we are to rely on them as fact.
The reason why old faded pictures and ancient yellowed manuscripts evoke so much sentiment in me is simple. They were carefully chosen, these words and these images. They were done with effort. They were stored to be protected against time, which only shows just how valued they were. All our digital memories seem to have less meaning. The capacity to take pictures and videos, the ability to write and rewrite words with no effort take some meaning away from it. I remember having to be so careful while write my final pages on a typewriter so as not to make any mistakes. And I remember being careful in taking pictures because cameras and film were such luxuries then.
I suppose I’m getting obsolete too. Like the older “technologies” which I find more meaningful. And in accepting that all these have value only to me shall make my grieving acceptable. Part of me knows that I will miss those pictures and those docx’s. But part of me will be grateful that I experienced them.