“Heartbeats” Page Eighteen
A Bond Beyond Death
A chance meeting, dramatic action, and tragedy. All in about three minutes. If this were an opera, it would be time for the long, heartwrenching duet.
It seems to be part of human nature that shared, intense experiences form strong bonds. You see it in war buddies who have been through battles together, shipmates who have been through storms together, and anyone who has ever been part of a film crew under James Cameron. It’s part of the reason for hazing rituals and company team-building exercises.
It doesn’t even have to be anything particularly life threatening, as long as the shared experience is suitably intense, personal, and creative.
In fact, under those circumstances, at least one of the partners in this intense bond doesn’t even have to be human. Heck, it needn’t even be alive. Individuals have been known to form such bonds with cars, articles of clothing, and weapons. (I don’t think sports teams count — they are more the source of the experience rather than the shared participant.)
Hell, back when I worked as an artist (in those days when it still involved making actual marks on actual paper) it was a common (though rarely admitted) practice to discover a “hot pencil” or a “good brush” which just seemed to make the work effortless. Such tools, once identified, were carefully saved aside for use on important occasions. One learned not to ask about those implements tucked carefully away in the back corner of an artist’s worktable. And if you valued your life, you never tried to borrow one.
Now that both writing and artwork are primarily done digitally, you would think that such intense bonding with implements would have vanished. But no. If anything, it is stronger than ever.
I am talking, of course, about the deep, abiding bond between humans and their computers.
I’d always sort of known it, of course, because I myself still have the last four computers I’ve owned, even though three of them no longer function. But these were the machines that launched and carried me into my own business. We fought together. We panicked together. We met deadlines and created new and exciting things together. They were my connection with other humans that I consider good friends and yet whom I’ve never actually met in person. My computers communicated, entertained, found desperately-needed information, gave new knowledge, and displayed porn.
And when, at long last, they could no longer keep up with the latest software requirements or their physical components simply gave out under stress, they were reluctantly replaced.
But somehow, I could never dispose of them. Oh, I’d make jokes, of course. I’d say things like “Maybe I’ll blow it up and film it.” It is, after all, one of the things I do for a living. But even making such a joke would bother me; it was like saying the same thing of a deceased pet. It was just wrong.
Only computers, too. Old stereo? Old phone? Old TV? Even someone else’s computer — no problem. Blow it to bits or recycle it without a second thought. But not my computers, my babies! We’d done so much together! But I figured I was just weird that way until I started noticing that I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, unusual.
My friend who has been doing graphics on a computer since the first Mac 128K recently decided that it was time to toss out the huge, floor-to-ceiling mound of styrofoam packing and boxes that his various machines have come in over the years. Oh, he still has the machines, of course. Most are completely non-functional, and are worth little or nothing as collectors items, but they are so closely bonded to him through creative adversity over the years he cannot even fathom throwing them in the trash. All he has been willing to do — and even this was a major step — is admit to himself that if he ever moves, some boxes and packing peanuts are probably enough for shipping. He really doesn’t need to keep the huge sculpted foam encasements that take up far more room than the machines themselves.
But the computers — still got ’em.
And the rest of us understand.