OK, so because I wrote some stuffÂ about my opinion about black-box shared resources and its consequence on data sustainability, I have gotten a lot of attention from a lot of people, some positive and some negative. We’ll set the positives aside, and most of the negatives, as well. Many negatives are from people who confused “don’t trust and don’t assume the best of” to mean “never use under any circumstances and lordy gee this new technology scares me“. Some utilize the term “cloud” in their business plan or career and so we can’t be having anyone saying it’s.. you know, overused and drilled into meaningless at the present time, and in other ways misleading. All well and good. Glad for the chat, people! I’m sure we’ll do coffee and quibble about this more in the future.
But there were a couple, only really a couple, who took a different tactic altogether, much more interesting for my purposes and perspective. That tactic can be stated as follows:
I am happy to say that I don’t care about my data.
This is a nuanced difference from “who cares”, which is more germaine to someone who walks into another person’s opinion and doesn’t agree. You don’t care about the opinion, don’t completely side with the choice of words, but probably have some common ground. You just don’t think it needs discussion, or don’t feel like hearing the discussion. You don’t care.
This is different. This is willful glee/pride in that you don’t care about your stuff.
So here’s the pages by the two guys, Â Rob Sayre (Webcite) and Victor Stone (Webcite). Note that I have to include webcitation (archived) links to the pages since they have clearly stated they don’t particularly care about the viability/sustained life of their data.
In both cases I show up and make unpleasant responsive noise. In both cases we either agree to disagree or I am handed a suggestion of medical diagnosis. Â What’s also interesting is that one is relatively young (Rob) while the other relatively older (Victor). Then again, perhaps the spectrum of folks who take their position go all over the map.
Either way, the fundamentals are completely skewed from where I come from. To Rob, the desire to protect or maintain one’s creations/data/information is egoism:
Using the Cloud doesnâ€™t mean you have to trust it. The catch is that you have to not care, which is not really a catch, since the alternative is that your Stuff ends up owning you.
To Victor, there is a pride in handing away and not caring about things, informational, physical, or otherwise.Â
True story: some months ago my wife and I sold our house. Let the lease expire on the car. Gave away ourÂ 500 books. Gave awayÂ 2,000 albums. Let go of all the furniture. Berkeley restricts trash pickups to just one can so there were lots of trips to the dump, includingÂ all the musicÂ Iâ€™ve recorded for the last 35 years. I figured I was saving my kids a trip to the dump after Iâ€™m dead.
Contrast with my hero Mark Pilgrim’s post which falls among similar lines. He equates divestment of material and things to be the key to happiness, and I could totally see this position; he portrays them as steps along a personal goal, and thinks others should do the same. He makes this point in a cute manner, devoid of judgementalism and (for that matter) context. Where I am abrasive, he is clever and smooth; I totally understand that. As I’ve said in several contexts over the last week or so, you catch more flies with honey, but I prefer to just use a flamethrower. Still, Mark’s posting, more a numbered poem, is a goal for some, just not for me.
In the case of these two other fellows (and ones like them), there’s a sort of approach to life with regards to “stuff” that’s certainly different from mine; fundamentally different. I think it can be stated, quite clearly, that I DO have an attachment to stuff, to things, although I do make an effort to understand the people behind those things. That inherent drive to maintain and collect things is not a point of shame with me; it’s a point of pride, as I like to think it is for any archivist. To tell me not to archive is to tell a musician not to make music, a craftsman to not build, and Jim Aikin to not be a misanthropic jerk. It’s in the blood. It’s not in everyone’s blood.
Now, far be it out of line to point out that someone so deeply associated with the maintenance of open standards and doing engineering in Mozilla would be a little less dismissive about wanting to protect data, but that’s just me way over here.
But Victor, well, that guy’s just dead.
Dead, dead, dead. In the ground. He’s done. What’s left for him is lying about and doing some hanging out with family and friends before he finishes scooping up handfuls of dirt and patting them on his head, gingerly. I feel quite free in making this declaration, just like he decided he didn’t like the tone of my entry, presupposed a series of silly, non-related declarations, and then responded poorly when the person who he names in the entry title shows up to chat. I loveÂ people like this, because it reminds me that for all the unpleasant things I am, there are many unpleasant things I’m not.
What I am notÂ is gleeful in my mortality, looking at my time as this sort of placeholder, where I did some stuff and then I’m doing everybody a favor by getting rid of it as quickly, cleanly, and comprehensively as possible. I don’t take prideÂ in that. I don’t look at myself as a sad little consumer tube, pulling in stuff one end and then blowing it out the other, into the trash. This position is particularly silly one for a musician, because musicians are the very heart of creation, just as sermonists are; they bring out things from the air and their minds and make them available to whatever degree life presents them. They literally create something from nothing, save the caloric requirements of a functioning brain. It’s a miracle to behold, one of life’s great examples. As a music guy, you’d think he’d get this. But he doesn’t. He’s dead.
Death comes to us all; this is true. And it’s true that at the end of your life, the remnant traces you leave to others to solve, the puzzles of financial woes and commitments and unpaid human debt might be an unfair bequest, but not all bequests are unfair, nor the act of bequesting itself. I have been through the works of many people who are no longer with us, and I’ve spent times recording and listening to the stories of these people and returned later to find them gone. This is what happens, and yet I do not feel burdened to have known their stories, or, in some cases, given things from their lives by their survivors to help archive or maintain. I am honored.
Maybe my relationship to “stuff” is different from these two guys, but it might go further than that. Maybe my relationship to everythingÂ is different. And when I’m done, or finished in some physical or effort-related manner, I would hope that I wouldn’t look at the result as trash to be discarded before someone else must regard it, but a life well spent and a body of work/collection worth sorting through, while I myself am dead.
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