The Demon, Impermanence

Thursday August 10, 2006

The Demon of Impermanence

It was just before lunch, and I was putting some finishing touches to chapter three of the PhD. The sun was coming through the window. The cat was curled asleep on the chair, snoring ever so gently. What could possibly go wrong?

Then the screen went blue and my PC – a battered old beast of burden made by Dell, as long-suffering as Don Quixote’s horse – decided that enough was enough. I rebooted. Hard drive not found. I rebooted again. Hard still drive not found. I rebooted another seventeen times. At attempt eighteen, the hard drive returned from the dead. Hallelujah! Windows whirred into life. Then it thought better of it and the blue screen reappeared. As resurrections go, it was a disappointing one. I rebooted again. Hard drive not found.

So I called up Dell Support, and spoke to a charming young man somewhere in India who took me through various attempts to solve the problem, furtling around inside the bowels of my pc and unplugging and replugging cables – it took an hour in all – before declaring that the hard drive was dead, rather than sleeping. I wondered when I had last backed up my work, then decided that this kind of wondering did not lead to mortal happiness, so I went out and got myself a danish pastry and a coffee, which in the circumstances seemed the most productive thing to do.

I’ve just spent a half hour on the telephone and now this evening I have the repair people coming round, who will also be attempting to salvage my documents from my old hard drive, so that all being well, not too much is lost. In the meantime, I’ve just dusted off (and that is no mere figure of speech) my old and even more creaky laptop so that I can write this.

That’s the trouble with the demon of impermanence. There’s really no escaping him. You take your eye off the ball, and he pounces. Lin Chi writes:

There is no safety in the threefold world; it is like a burning house. This is no place for you to linger long! The deadly demon of impermanence will be on you in an instant, regardless of whether you’re rich or poor, old or young.

What Lin Chi doesn’t say is that, although the demon is indeed deadly (whether you are a hard drive, or a danish-pastry-munching mortal), he is also the very thing that makes it possible to practice. So whilst I weep over my lost words from chapter three, I’ll be doing my best to bear this in mind.


# · Ahimsaka

Dude, next time don’t get a dell, their products are horrible. Go Sony or Toshiba, more expensive, but way better quality.

# · Dukkha Earl

... In the meantime, I’ve just dusted off (and that is no mere figure of speech) my old and even more creaky laptop so that I can write this. ...

Funny how, in times of trouble, we go back to the tried and true. Even thought discarded, these things always seem to at least work the way we expect them to. There’s a life lesson for us.

# · Dave

Man, that blows. I hope you manage to recover your work.

Just this morning, someone said in a listserve I belong to: if you want anything to survive, print it out! Well yes, but my printer’s broken…

# · Will

The laptop is a whole other story, Dukkha Earl. It has never worked properly, so expectations are lower, and this makes life easier in a way….

Thanks for your thoughts, folks.


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