Why you need an IT guy in the family

You need an IT guy in the family because things fall apart.

Centers do not hold.

Also things like mail programs get corrupted. Other things get messed up because Firefox crashed.

Then, when you are whimpering in the corner, because you haven’t a clue how to deal with any of it, your Elder Son, who is back in school to get all kinds of mysterious computer certifications, comes in. Behold the IT guy: he is a hero in the mold of classic heroes. He is grave, but compassionate. He scolds you for being a ‘puter pansy, tells you you really can do all of this, yourself, but then takes pity. He knows that even if you can get past your techno-terror, it may take weeks for you to do what he can do in an hour or so, and then you still won’t be dotting all the i’s and crossing all the tees.

As he takes over your desk and keyboard, he will tell you about Linux. He cheerfully admits it’s for geeks, but that ordinary people can easily use it if they will only try. He allows that most people are not willing (or too busy) to apply themselves with diligence, and that Linux users are analogous to car mechanics who care deeply about every aspect of their engine, while the rest of the computer-using world is populated with “I just want it to go and not blow up” types.

“But why wouldn’t people be more curious?” your IT guy will say. “Why wouldn’t they want to learn more? Math and Science make me sad, do you know why? Because it is all like a great unending serial novel, and I know I will never read the end of it; I will die before I know it.”

He will have no opinion about the Icons all around your desk, except to note that you have a lot of them.

Told that you are looking (endlessly) at laptops, your IT guy will click and type and click some more, and he will argue against the Mac Probook. Acknowledging the usefulness of the Mac, he will disdain the price and suggest that “everyone says they love it because they wouldn’t dream of suggesting they’ve paid that much for something they don’t love…”

Then, because he is a fair and amiable sort, he’ll admit – as files are recaptured, resorted and reloaded – that yes, most people will tell you to buy what they use, because everyone loves the thing they use, and wants to think it is the best value for their needs.

“Vista,” he will tell you, after listening to you prattle about things you have read, “is a fine operating system, much improved.”

If you ask him, however, about a Dell model that makes your heart lurch because it is such a pleasing and comely shade of cherry-red, he will look away and tell you he does not follow the market very closely.

And then, when your broken things have been repaired and the crooked path made once again straight, he will go sit at his own computer, where he will compose beautiful, funny, compelling music that he will share only with other geeks. When you suggest there may be a market for a fantasy-opera with a moral (we’re so tired of Wagner, aren’t we?) he will shake his head sadly, because you do not understand; nothing can be made public until it is perfect. These things take time. A great deal of time. Getting a composition out to the public is not the point of composition. You serve the muse, draw on inspired moments and build a portfolio. Then when the time is right, if all circumstances are aligned, you take it out, brush it off and when it is perfect, all things come into themselves, in a fullness of perfection.

While all this is going on, the younger son – much less placid, patient and peaceful than the first – will dodge in, ask for the car, refuse to say why he needs it and careen back out the door to the beats of the pop music he is composing and recording as a demo. Things must happen immediately. Waiting is stupid. Perfection is unimportant. By the end of the year, he expects to be a star, and what do you mean that’s not possible; don’t you know who he is? Of course things will work out. “Things always do work out for you in life, if you just have the right attitude and a bit of flexibility.” The younger son has appeared and vanished again in the space of a few mouseclicks.

“He must learn patience,” the Elder Son will say. “He rushes with foolhardiness, into the great unknown.”

I love my kids, but they could not be more different. They’re both “certified geniuses” according to whoever thinks up those tests, both artistic, musical, creative, inventive, curious, math-and-science loving and fair-minded. Elder son is utterly fearless about approaching and interacting within the interior world of screens, monitors and the universe of ideas, “out there” in the vast, unlimited ‘nets. He is cautious to a fault and sometimes hobbled by the instinct toward perfectionism. Buster is fearless about taking on the flesh and blood world, flinging his arms wide open to the universe “out there” – the vast throng of people he plans to make friends with and eventually rule. He is not always cautious enough and can sometimes be hobbled by pride.

And the truth is – despite all of my best and worst days of parenting – these two are pretty much precisely the people they were on the days they were born.

They are both, in a way, from outer space. Elder Son has always been the quiet dreamer of a planet, and Buster has always been the impatient supernova; they circle around us, in their own orbits.

Our mysteries are all before us, every day.

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