I typed the email and hit Send. I walked into the kitchen and got a fresh fill of coffee. I came back to the laptop and saw: “Insert Boot Media to Start.” I did what a tech-naïve person like me naturally does – hit Return, then Escape, then Alt-Ctrl-Del, then reboot with the secret panic button on the bottom.
I called a tech professional friend, who said, “That should be no problem.” He called back a few hours later. “It’s a problem.” Long story short – a deceased hard drive. It’s with a specialist now – in Canada, actually – to see what if anything can be recovered. It was not one of my best days.
I had some things backed up, some were in the cloud.
But some is presumably gone forever, some files going back 15 years and more.
This was not what I planned on that morning. But that mishap with bits and bytes has become a fruitful reflection.
First, and most important, this was at best an annoyance in the grand scheme of things. It helped me remember how devastating are many of the real losses in life that people experience. The death of a loved one. The breakup of a marriage. The loss of a job. The accident or illness that leads to disability. The storm or flood or fire that takes a house and cherished possessions. The missile, or bullet, or bomb, that robs one of a neighbor, a spouse, a child. These are literally life-changing tragedies. A hard drive does not even register on this scale.
Second, I know better about backing up data and reading the warning signs of impending problems with the technology we use. I had ample good intentions. But maybe tomorrow. Or as soon as I just get this done. Or, look, it’s been fine up to now, maybe it’ll still be OK. But the moment came between an email and a cup of coffee when it wasn’t OK. What else am I not being careful with, leaving common sense and prudence aside for later?
Third, this is an opportunity to let go of things that perhaps I relied on too often. I figured I can always go back to that past bulletin column, the homily from six years ago, the policy that was drafted for another time and place. At least for the Scriptures and preaching, it will make me read the Word of God anew and make me think harder about if anything I said back then even sticks in my own mind, much less that of the people in the assembly. And fourth, it brings to mind one of my favorite prayers from the Roman Missal, on the first page of the Mass texts, in fact. It is the Prayer after Communion for the First Sunday of Advent: “Even now, as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.”
I sincerely hope God spares you the deep losses in life, but perhaps you too might think back on things that were not expected nor desired in your life, and what they might teach. Look for opportunities to leave behind what has become too easy to rely upon, rather than stretching for something new.
Cherish the passing things and protect what is fragile and valuable in your families and relationships. And … back up your data.