I realized that it’s now been more than a month since my original blog, Monastic Musings) fell prey to a malware attack and was quarantined by Google almost immediately. Although a Google employee collected a list of all the affected blogs, nothing has been done since. Some of the victims posted outraged remarks. I’ve been practicing persistent meekness: waiting patiently for a week, then two, between posting “Has anyone heard anything” notes. Like the women in those British ballads, I still have hope for my loved-one lost at sea. Realistically, it’s time to declare the 985+ postings gone and move on.
Matt Groening‘s drawing of “Akbar and Jeff’s Data Bereavement Kit” was always at my side while I was writing my doctoral dissertation – and I backed up everything obsessively. But I haven’t seen it in years – and even Google can’t find a copy. I would appreciate it more now, dealing with all that lost writing.
Free software? Losing my blog prompts me to wonder about our expectations regarding the internet. I never paid a penny for Blogger: not for the software or the file storage – it was free. So were the weather forecasts, time of day, translation options, Flickr! and LibraryThing widgets, and all the doo-dads on my previous blog. The provision of free software and services is so pervasive that, for millions of people, it has become the expected price. Yet we are irate when technical help to bloggers is slow or lacking. (I hear that help is superb and easily available on eBay, where every transaction includes a small fee.)
We think it’s normal to get services for free – even those that were expensive or unavailable a decade ago. We expect them to work perfectly without any maintenance from us. And we expect speedy and high-quality help when they break. How can this be reasonable?
Can we do without? This morning, a student asked that we pray for her sister, who is studying abroad in a major European nation. I said, “Is she homesick or missing the U.S.?” My student said, “Yes – they don’t even have internet in the house.” I was surprised and taken aback – but remembered how much I count on the free WiFi at the Belvidere Oasis outside of Chicago or the I-80 rest areas in Iowa, and how quickly I’ve become accustomed to checking email between classes on my first-ever cell phone.
Psychologists report that people in western nations are suffering from information overload. Professional workers – and even laborers – complain that there is no real leisure any more. With cell phones and WiFi and home computers, they are constant available to their jobs. The cartoons of people doing their paid work from the beach, on their vacation, are all too real. We complain bitterly, our sense of well-being suffers, we have a hard time finding true respite – and we find it impossible to break the links.
Benedictine perspective. If I had to lose my blog, there was no better place and time than a Desert Day at the Abbey of St. Walburga. The sisters certainly use the conveniences of the modern age – but always at a distance. A few sisters maintain the community blog to share their life with the outside world. Many use e-mail, but only when they can get to it in the midst of a busy day. Their mental space is not filled with the news events of a hundred nations, dozens of cities, and the particular stories of myriads of celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, crime victims, and more. My lost blog, in that setting, was just one more part of the ephemera that could fly away without real loss.
This leads me to ponder about a Benedictine approach to the various gadgets and methods of modern life. Already, in one short week, I have discovered the ways in which a cell phone can utterly disrupt the monos, the single-heartedness of Benedictine life.
This will be my last post about the old blog unless, by some surprising event, it is resurrected and I can recover the writings of the past. May the trace of what was best remain with the readers, and all that was flighty and insubstantial be blown away like chaff.