I remember the days long past when as a child the only password I knew was “Open Sesame,” and I’m not even sure I ever had to use it then. (There was another important password that I did have to use, now that I think about it, the “magic” dining table password I had to remember when I asked for a second helping of mac and cheese: “Please…") Now in this modern world all of us are under the captivity of a maze of passwords. These amazing little entry keys, these ever fascinating sequence of letters, numbers and symbols - lists and lists of them - protect us from the bad guys and provide us with incredible access to information and almost anything else we can imagine we want or need in this world…unless, of course...they don’t. Unexpectedly, frustratingly, maddeningly, (should I add exasperatingly?) they don’t or won’t because we forgot them or can’t find them. And they can be very personally touchy and unforgiving when they feel forgotten, as we all know.
Last Tuesday, for example, I found myself in a tangled patch of password confusion when my printer suddenly, for no apparent reason other than malice, for the first time I could ever remember, suddenly demanded a password if it were to cooperate with the rest of my computerized brain trust. The failure to identify the crucial, but apparently nonexistent password, eventually led to calls to Whidbey Tel tech, then to Apple help line, and back and forth at least two or three times more (did I mention wait times). I finally struggled to figure out how to get a new password - as it turned out for the computer itself by that time. It required “at least” twelve, way-too-complicated symbol sequence. And at that point I was set with a new usable password...But I forgot to write it down, and the next time I needed the new, way-too-complicated password I simply could not remember all it’s nuances. Some two plus more hours, two or more plus advisors later, when we again cleared the maze, I asked my very patient last tech advisor how any “normal” person was to figure this all out on our own. She quickly said, “You probably can’t. That’s what we’re here for.” (She also added that she also gets completely boggled herself at times, which wasn’t much of a consolation.) So I have resigned myself to accept that I am held hostage to a complex communication system I will never understand - a system that is somewhat, pathetically, my vulnerable lifeline to much of the rest of my world, a vulnerability I apparently share with most other “normal” people (at least most of us over 70).
There are, of course, any number of other frustrating parts of my life and yours to complain about. But the challenge of password and computer management is a biggie. It has not been part of most of my life experience. It is a whole new category of survival training. And because I am never sure I am learning it well enough it can become a significant source of anxiety. I could even claim a trauma from the last week because I have found myself now worrying about whether my computer will be willing to support me and be happy to see me when I turn it on, or will I suffer another significant abandonment and rejection. (I have occasionally told computer tech people half of their service was technical; the other half was personal therapy.)
The challenge of managing our passwords and computers so clearly represents what seems like a pervasive assault on our adaptive behavior capacity. Adaptations to Covid alone - masking, maintaining relationships, mobility - are daily concerns. In addition tensions around political turmoil and social unrest in general mean we are constantly discerning our ever-changing, ever-challenging place in this new world. We are also caught in the shifting tides of pace and momentum. On the one hand, we feel we must hurry and catch up with all the reckoning and demands of technology and social change. And on the other hand we also live in an equally unfamiliar world of a Covid-induced, constant wait-and-see mentality regarding vaccinations and case counts which leaves our ongoing personal and social health and well being dependent on an uncertain timeline related to lifting Covid restrictions.
The formal definition of adaptation is "a change or adjustment to improve something, or to make it suitable to a different situation.” I think what makes our adaptive world today so exhausting is that in general many of us are not such much in the business of “improving something” as we are just coping. I have few illusions or hopes I will really every significantly improve my ability to manage the technology needed for my competency with computers. I cope. I will also grant, of course, that beyond just coping, this era of global cultural shakeups is also creating many positive adaptive opportunities for significant, epochal global change, and I am excited when I become aware of the positive visionary initiatives that are evolving.
There are no simple “Open Sesame” or even “Please” passwords that will provide us with the access to wisdom required in this complex world that can ever unlock answers about the future. We will need to work for them, perhaps suffer to learn how we must live if we are to sustain our planet and survive. Each of us, and indeed the entire world, may just need to cope for the while just as I am coping with my technological limitations. Coping will never quite feel good enough. It is, however, a very useful skill, especially when the world becomes as challenging as our lives are today.
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