13 January 2011

The workaround

I have to admit that I'd not heard this term until the middle of last autumn when I was having computer problems.  During a much-needed consultation with the man who works on this computer I described the problems I'd been having and how I had been coping prior to giving up and calling him.  Before remoting into my laptop to begin his work he congratulated me on the creative workarounds I'd devised.

This week I came up against a web page that I needed to visit, but which wouldn't stay open, Internet Explorer repeatedly trying to reopen the tab and then giving up.  My call to the financial institution and conversation with a customer representative lead to being handed off to technical assistance (a pleasant-sounding fellow working from home in Chattanooga because of the snow, who murmured to his cat while he worked remotely on the computer). 

After several interesting and time consuming efforts to get the website to open and stay open he clicked on a different search engine, saying, "Let's try this workaround."  Success.  So, at the very least, I have a problem with Internet Explorer.

The workaround.  It is a computer term I have since learned.  It even has a Wikipedia article.  Workarounds tend to stress the system and generally won't work for long.  But, they do get keep us computing for a while.

Seems to me that's pretty much the story of my life.  And, everyone I know for that matter.  We learn from childhood not to be undone by obstacles.  We find a variety of ways to do the things we need to do.  We experience a sense of accomplishment when, after all manner of detours, we manage to achieve whatever the goal.

Aren't there times, however, that we encounter one too many difficulties?  Times when we conclude, rightly or wrongly, that the pursuit simply isn't worth it?  It's hard to tease out whether and when we are to continue to be tenacious, whether or when we are being belligerently stubborn.  There is a difference.

Our computer workarounds are not intended to be permanent.  And, if we let them go, it's likely the computer will crash.  Our own personal  workarounds -- the ones that are costing us more than they're worth -- may well do the same to us.  Probably not worth it.  And, the only way to know which it is, an honorable but difficult pursuit or an effort which ultimately will do more harm and good, is to pay attention -- to motives, to fears, to defenses.

Computer workarounds have to be put to right sooner or later.  Sooner than later, actually.  So do our some of our personal workarounds.

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