Upgrade - Please Reboot

Friday, January 20, 2012

By Steven H. VanderLeest

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Imagine if every time you changed the oil in your car, you had to take out everything in the trunk, remove everything from the glove compartment, etc.  Then when the oil change was done, you could put everything back in and start over.  What if you had to turn the TV off and on again every time you wanted to change the channel?  Yet this is the procedure we go through every time we upgrade the operating system on our computer, or need to reboot because of an update to the OS or even to some of the applications.  Interdependence between components of the software system make these restarts necessary, but they are annoying.

Particularly annoying, when we reboot our computers, everything starts from scratch.  You don’t lose anything, assuming you saved before rebooting—though that is not always the case when the reboot is not voluntary on your part.  Even so,  you lose the particular distribution of window locations on the desktop; you lose what was open in your browser; you lose which song was playing in iTunes or youTube.  Our computer technology is finally starting to  address this problem.  For example, most web browsers will let you quickly save the set of tabs you have open at the moment, and some will try to restore the tabs you had open last time (even if the browser crashed).    Even more annoying, when we upgrade to a new operating system version or switch to a different operating system altogether, it is difficult to transfer our personalities.    Our computer technology is also starting to  address this problem.  For example, most OS offerings provide some type of transfer “wizard” that helps transfer files, web browser settings and bookmarks, and so forth.  But they are not all that smart yet, often leaving out settings that are important to us.  Many of them don’t capture your custom keyboard settings, or transfer all the additions you made to the dictionary for spellcheck over the years.

The upside to these restarts is that they give you a chance to clean out your virtual closet.  Back in my college and graduate school days we moved a lot.  Every change of address meant packing up our entire lives into the minimum possible number of cardboard boxes.  My wife and I learned to live lightly, retaining relatively few material possessions. Every move became an opportunity to cull out the dross, giving it away to friends, charity, or the garbage bin.   Simplifying our material lives not only made moves easier, but it also was financially beneficial (it turns out that frugality is an essential character strength for a graduate student living on a meager research assistant stipend).  What’s more, simplifying our material lives also made our living spaces less cluttered.  It is much easier to find what you need when there is less of what you don’t need that is covering it up.  This practice did not always prohibit buying a new item.  Sometimes a handy multi-purpose tool can replace several others, making it a prudent purchase.  A smart PDA or phone can serve as a universal replacement for calendars, address books, music players, and more.  

I think our early discipline regarding material goods was helpful to our spiritual growth too.  As  Christians striving to be in the world but not of it, I think a light hold on material possessions is crucial.  Learning to prioritize one’s physical space can also help focus one’s mind regarding priorities in other dimensions of life.  Where I spend my time or money also reflects what I hold dear.   Cleaning out one’s physical closets, organizing computer settings, or sorting through MP3s can be a cue to also regularly clean out one’s mental and spiritual spaces, heeding Paul’s call to the Romans to be transformed through renewal in Christ rather than conforming to the patterns of worldly desires.   It is much easier to find what you need when there is less of what you don’t need that is covering it up.


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(c) 2013, Steven H. VanderLeest