Life: thoughts on computers and tools

“Walking into Nathan and Kristi’s empty house was a reminder of why stuff doesn’t really matter: We make the inanimate objects come to life, and not vice versa. Similarly, it reminded me that the fond feelings I have for this place are all wrapped up in the people. There was certainly no charm to those bare walls, studded with hooks where pictures once hung.”

—Alan Paul, “The Annual Expat Exodus Never Gets Any Easier

This is an appropriate quote given a friend’s recent e-mail asking if I’d become overly enamored of computers, given what she called an “almost pornographic” shot of my desk. It’s not dissimilar from Faramir’s comment in The Lord of the Rings, when he separates tools from their uses this way in The Two Towers: “[…] I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend […]”

So too I feel about tools, be they computers or pens, or books themselves, which I see not as objects of reverence, but as bulbs that only shed light when read and shared. This could in part be a decadent opinion born of economic opportunity: five hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, I might not have been so blithe, as books were far more expensive than they are today and have been declining in relative price for almost all of the 20th Century. Regardless of that, I’m lucky enough to live in a time when books are relatively inexpensive; though a book might have symbolic meaning, it is the thing or potential within, not the thing itself, that appeals, and it’s only to the extent that the exterior thing has the potential to manifest what’s within that I’m interested.

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