Yesterday my laptop died. 

I am ashamed to say that I reacted to this news in a similar fashion to how I responded to a recent phonecall notification of a family death: shock (surprising myself at how well I was dealing with ‘the situation’), followed by immersion in attempts at practical problem-solving, followed by belated panic and an overdue sense of hopelessness and disorientation. 

Michael said something cool today. He said something remarkable and unprecedented has occurred to us as a species now – “We’ve reached a critical mass point where the amount of memory we have externalised in books and databases (to name but a few sources) now exceeds the amount of memory contained within our collective biological bodies. In other words, there’s more memory ‘out there’ than exists in ‘all of us’. We’ve peripheralised our essence.” *

I was haunted by the loss (of photos, music, work projects, documentation of artwork, pieces of writing, invoices, tax returns) that were embedded in this machine, not backed up. My outsourced memory was not backed up and I had no one to blame but myself. The worst part of the loss were the gaps in my inventory of the things I knew I had lost: the things I couldn’t even remember but had lost anyway. I imagined these things sitting zipped up tightly in yellow folders. These yellow folders had clearly defined edges but blurred-together names; they hovered somewhere close to the right side of my forehead but slightly above it, lost in a blind fringe. 

I awoke with a headache the day my laptop died, and it has refused to recede. I’ve had a lot of reading to do and been overtaken with anxiety since I’ve been unable to take notes except in written, paper, form. My thinking has become linear and I realise I’m not entirely used to it. The pressure to internalise all of this material and remember everything now is making my headache worse.  

After flatlining, the laptop actually responded to artificial resuscitation but I have been told that the medium-to-longterm prognosis is bad. So we are making the most of every day we have left together. 

Today I went out and bought a monstrous backup hard drive. The muscles around my cheekbones and mouth relaxed for the first time since the emergency (I hadn’t realised they had been all pinched together). I experienced a warm, flowing sensation inside my body (not pee or other bodily fluid: something much more ethereal and life-affirming).  

Your life is made up of experiences: your music, your memories, your information. As that collection grows, so does the need to save your life.** 

I am disgusted with myself for buying into this.    

* Microserfs, Douglas Coupland, 1995. ** Printed on the packaging of my new external hard drive.

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