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Hardware, Software, and Life

John W. Pinkerton


When man was created, a lot of flaws were built into the hardware. 

For most folks, the hardware works pretty well.  We crawl, walk, and run pretty quickly.  We usually develop reasonably good eye-to-hand coordination.  By the time we're in our mid twenties, our bodies seem to be clicking on all cylinders.  There are few if any signals that this will not continue forever.

Our brains are part of our hardware.  The functioning of our brains takes a while to fully develop.  By the time we reach our mid-twenties, it is functioning about as well as it ever will and like our other organs they give us little hints that our brains will ever decline in usefulness.

The biggest flaw with our hardware is that after our mid-twenties, it begins to deteriorate, and eventually it shuts down altogether.   You might say it's planned obsolecense.

For some of us, our hardware holds up pretty well in spite of ourselves.  Others aren't so fortunate.  Hearts suddenly give up.  Livers decide enough is enough.   Glands say I can't do this.  We've all known folks who “unexpectantly” drop dead.  Usually it's not because of any poor life decisions: it’s

because our hardware had built in flaws from the time of conception.

A young friend of ours who once worked with us---let's call him Bob---was a coach with a good sense of humor who seemed to delight in life.  He moved on to other jobs, became a principal, married, had children, and one day at a wonderful time in his life, his heart stopped.  It was not because he had done anything to cause his demise…the hardware had flaws from his birth.

Of course, poor life decisions play a role.  I smoke.  I'm now paying the price for that.  Others drink as I once did or use drugs to excess or are exposed to other elements which harm their bodies, their hardware.  Frankly, I never paid much attention to my health: I doubt that it would have made much difference if I had not smoked and had exercised til my ass fell off.

There is one factor which begins with our hardware but effects our software: our sexual glands and organs.  Holy crap! 

I think our creator said, “Let's make man a rational being, but in order to assure that he will reproduce himself, let's also make him a sexual creature.”  Our sexual impulses act as a pretty strong agent in its opposition to reason.  Holy moly.  Do you think maybe our creator overdid it? 

Obviously, we are born with some software built in.  It's hard to separate this built-in software from software programmed throughout our lives.

Usually our programming begins with our mothers and then, of course, with our fathers.  If they are good people, we are programmed with good software early on in our lives.  If not, well, the software begins with flaws. 

I met a young fellow recently who was recommended to me to do some work at our house.  Near the end of the second day, he began to tell me his personal history…it was the stuff of nightmares---God awful parents,  horrible experiences, and a lot of bad decisions---a lot of bad software.  Yet, he managed to drag a lot of the bad programming to the trash and acquire new, better software.  He's now a productive, balanced, hard working young man.  He attributes this to folks who were finally able to show him the light…show him that he could reprogram his software.

Programming comes from numerous places: elementary through graduate schools, our friends and associates, our work places, our entertainment sources.  Education, particularly higher education, has much to do with our programming.  I can almost invariably tell which university someone attended by their politics.

All of these and other sources become part of the program and then get organized in our brains from most to least important.  Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of our software is junk.  One can't eliminate the junk, but one can file it under the heading of “junk.”

Reprogramming our software is possible.  After I retired from 35 years in public education as a teacher and librarian, I reprogrammed  to be an artist and author.  I think the one thing that made this easy for me was the fact that I restrained myself from these activities while I was a teacher and a librarian.  Knowing that I'm a simple man, I did not want to distract myself from my chosen professions.   By the way, the switch from teacher to librarian did require some reprogramming of my personality---from stern to friendly.  Retirement meant a clean slate and new software.

Most folks take Popeye's attitude: “I am what I am.”  Well, that's true to a point, and we do become who we are based on the software with which we acquire randomly, but it is possible to consciously reprogram ourselves.

Pride, arrogance, high self-esteem are at the heart of inertia in folks who cannot change, cannot reprogram.

Pride, the sister of arrogance, is a terrible human characteristic.  It stops us from seeing our own reflections.  I curse the push to foster high self-esteem in our schools.   We should tell our youths the truth, not present them with false images of themselves, and we should tell them that they may have a lot of junk software that needs some reprogramming.

The folks who are lucky, like myself, were either born with humility or have life thrust humility upon them.  Humility allows one to stand back from ourselves and do true evaluations---to understand when we need reprogramming.