A month ago was the beginning.
It all started innocously; after using the same installation of Windows 98 since November of 1998, transferring it from one hard drive to another and then to another, moving it from one computer to another, with various pieces of hardware moving in and out, and with no operating system reinstalls ever, I had reached a point where the limitations of my desktop OS of choice and the benefits of the most recent OS version far outweighed the familiarity and sentimental value of the old ways. My system, no matter how well kept, how closely guarded, how well configured, had developed deficiencies, inconsistencies, instabilities. I was running out of drive space. I had a spare 120 gig drive sitting on the other IDE channel with 8 partitions, into which Windows XP and Redhat Linux 9 was installed. With the exception of one 10-gig partition, the drive, as it stood, was useless to my Win98 installation. After a year of waffling on the triple-boot idea, I made the concrete choice. I had no better option than to drop the burden, upgrade my computer, and upgrade myself.
There was a previously-installed XP ready and waiting for me on the 20-gig primary partition, I wiped the other partitions on the large drive and combined the space into one partition giving me around 95gigs on the remainder. Perfect. All NTFS, relatively crash-tolerant, all set up with proper file permissions and everything. And for a while, things seemed good, and they were, except for one minor thing: my screen was too dim.
I played with the display settings and realized that XP was using the “reference” driver for my Voodoo3 video card, therefore I had little control over how bright the output was, and no control over color correction or anything. With the card’s manufacturer, 3Dfx, dot-bomb-dead and in the ground for four years now, my chance of finding a suitable XP driver for the card were slim; the only pickings were from a hobbyist group. No official support. The card, though it still functioned and worked well, was now a burden. It had reached the end of its time in modern equipment. Long live 3Dfx.
It was then that I remembered, “Hey, what about the video card I got as a thank-you gift a year ago?” Yes, the ATI All-In-Wonder card, with the built-in TV tuner. YES! So I found updated drivers for it on the company website, installed the card, dealt with the driver install, rebooted, and boom, I had a new video card and proper configuration drivers. No more dimness. After a quick install of the tuner and video recording application suite, and a day-long scramble to buy a coax cable, cable splitter, and an audio cable to go between video card and sound card, I finally had suitable cable television in my own bedroom. And it was good.
These events laid the groundwork and set the reverberation pattern for what was next. After several days of “tuning in and dropping out”, spending the evening watching television instead of chatting (as is my idiom) on IRC, the sequence continued on to something which galvanized me, opened my eyes, and gave me a new outlook on things.
It was a Friday night. Typically, I would’ve spent the evening with my IRC friends at Flightpath, sitting around being bored while we all poked at our laptops. That night, the disinterest was too great and I decided to give that plan a pass when my friend and coworker invited me to join him, his girlfriend, and some other mutual friends at Spiderhouse for coffee and chatter. I was game for it and wanted to go. When I got home from work, I unwound with the standard amount of channel-surfing while I cooled my heals. It was in that surfing that I remembered a very important event was to happen that night, and that it was a requirement for me to watch. So that night, two weeks ago, I stayed home and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games.
There is something you must understand about me. When I was a youth, I made my life centered around activities that involved large groups of people, swarms. Youth conferences, youth camps, church groups, youth group outings, school football games, pep rallies, revivals, the works. I gave myself to situations like that, not just for the one-on-one interaction with strangers, but to be part of the mosh if you will. To lose myself in the whole, to be overwhelmed.
Now here I am, a mild 14 years later. I’m older, quieter, a staunch individualist. I’m typically no longer given to doing group things. For the most part, the world at large be damned; I’ll stand with my fist clenched and do my own thing. I’ve become learned enough to understand now, in this age of mine, that the “movement of the Holy Spirit” I felt those many years ago in all those youth conferences, prayer meetings, revivals, was little more than the overwhelming sensation of joining something larger than myself. A neurological, neurochemical process. The ruse is now shown for what it was.
After stripping down the facade of that, after removing the religious overtones, I now see what it was that I felt, and I acknowledge that I, still, am weak to the power of Many. I still have the heart to join with strangers for something bigger, something greater than me, greater than us. And, to me, the Olympics is one of few things still worthy enough for that kind of social junction. There is nothing higher.
So I watched the ceremonies. I watched the faceless audience. I saw the crowds, I witnessed the art, the pageantry, the symbolism of the ceremony. I counted each country that entered the arena during the Parade of Nations, saw their flags, their outfits, their proud representation for their home lands. And I absorbed every bit of this and wept. I wept that I was witnessing something that was really happening. I wept that I was part of that moment. I wept that history was happening, and that all I could do was watch and be overwhelmed while sitting in my bedroom half a world away.
It was after that experience I realized that all the things in my life that were big pains, huge troubles, everpresent hassles were nothing. I was set straight again, my perspective readjusted. All those little problems I had to deal with, the interpersonal tug of war, the bickering, the backstabbing, the worries about who said what and why, they became meaningless, useless, expendable. It was after a day or so of careful consideration that I quietly parted from the main IRC channel I was member of and walked away. Every argument and snide comment was washed away. Replaced. Upgraded. I walked away. There are too many people in this world to end up wasting time, heart, and tears on a small few who return so little.
I just quietly walked away.
So during the next two weeks, the Olympic competitions continued; our American teams won medal after medal; around 104 medals in all for us. Worldwide, there was fierce, passionate, astounding competition; an Olympian mountain of sportsmanship, peace, and cooperation between athletes from every country. Peace. I smiled and wept that life could be so good, and smiled that it indeed could be. I wept that I had wasted most of the past nine months pursuing the friendship of those who I ran with only to be returned with heartache, tension, and little good reward. And I smiled that I had removed it from my life, that I had lightened my load and lightened my heart. I wept that it took a total of thirteen days before anyone in that group bothered to contact me to see if I was OK. And now I smile to say that I am perfectly OK, and happy to rejoin the world and my previous and varied sets of friends in their endeavors.
A few nights ago, I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympic games. I was sad and felt a cold emptiness about the closing of the events, but there was something underscoring that sadness: I felt hope because the event happened in the first place and that I, in my newfound happiness and in my own little way, got to be a part of the crowd again. The ceremony was a grand party for everyone at the arena and abroad, and I watched it all through my tears of joy. I’m different now; the touch has changed me. The long sequence of happenstance that brought me here has brought me to the world as it is now, as I see it now. I still am the individualist that won’t get a LiveJournal account simply because “everyone else has one”, but I (at least for this duration) have less trouble with the idea of going outside of my own track to see something new. Even if it means by doing the expected and the usual and going alone.
There’s a quickness in my pace and lightness in my step; the lightness is my loss of burden by the roadside, and the quickness is the pair of winged sandals on loan to me by Hermes, the god of Marathon.