Rendered Fat Content


Jean Metzinger: Man with a Pipe (Portrait of an American Smoker) (1911-12)

" … acknowledging this simple fact."

Two full years since my friend Thomas strongly suggested that I install a PastWord security application, I finally invited my tech guy over to install the system for me. I'm nobody's application installer, apt as I am to not quite understand the app's authors' intentions and instructions being inevitably inaccurate and imprecise, I much prefer to hire a professional to perform installations. I quickly felt satisfied with this decision as a fresh and new dizzying array of terms and functions flashed before me. My job was relegated to repeatedly entering a single PastWord as each installation stage progressed. Brian The Tech Guy somehow managed to resurrect long lost PastWords and convert them to new uses, like actually providing access for a change instead of simply serving as barriers to entry. I realized as he installed this package that I had been living incredibly insecurely, my only potentially saving grace being that I'd set up my systems in such a convoluted manner, that nobody could have ever been very likely to crack the codes, though they most prominently kept my systems secure from myself.

I, like everybody, possess a long, shadowy, and largely insecure history with security.
I've mostly believed that achieving it could only prove to be an utter impossibility, so I've more or less avoided the issue. That first house was in a distinctly insecure neighborhood. I held my breath and hoped for the best and, gratefully, the best worked out. It could have been much, much worse, but given how much say I had about it, I chose to just grin and more or less bare it. A few years ago, I posted a piece I labeled Insecurity, where I lobbied in favor of coping as perhaps the only reasonable strategy for achieving any workable sort of security. The diet gurus all seem to eventually succumb to some disease as rare as was their regimen. I have no idea what happened to their followers, but I suspect that they also failed to achieve immortality, just like the heretics had. But with my current Reconning, I guess that I'm starting to respond a little differently, installing this PastWord security system was just the latest in a small series of seemingly preemptive actions I've inflicted upon myself.

Last summer, I finally kicked my tobacco habit again after a decades-long series of cascading addictions which started back in my teens with cigarettes, which I kicked luke-warm turkey in my thirties; a cigar affection, which I carried for the better part of a decade after being liberated for at least that long; and ending with a secret addiction to snuff until I managed to kick that embarrassment last summer. Now, I won't even consent to a cup of caffeinated coffee and my brain feels as pious and chaste as vegan on lentils. I'd always known that with tobacco I was tempting fate but always felt that I had plenty of time left to reform myself before the negative externalities caught up with me. I surprisingly exited the habit before it got me, but then the jury's still out. My father contracted lung cancer twenty years after he quit smoking cigarettes. Who knows what seeds we've already planted? He was young and immortal until he wasn't, just like the rest of us will be, however much Securing we initiate.

I noticed, as Brian installed that package, just how much of the internet had become inaccessible to me because I could not for the life of me remember what PastWord I'd chosen to gain access. I'd abandoned LinkedIn, DropBox, Netflix, Skype, and many, many more points of access just because I could not remember their frigging PastWord. I lived like an internet monk, surrounded by temptations in which I just could not indulge. I never really felt all that deprived of anything, mind you, for I'd taken the high road of coping with my insecurities. The rub, as Shakespeare would have explained it, was that the primary use of PastWord authentication had become to prevent me from accessing my own material. I guess that there's no greater security than denying access to the author and owner of something, and packaging it into a convoluted mess such that nobody but the author would ever be able to figure out how to gain access, even if armed with the long, lost PastWord. Locked out's as secure as anyone ever gets.

Security in this life seems an obvious impossibility, but Securing nonetheless seems reassuring. My new PastWord security system produced a single page designed to be stored in a safety deposit box or with an attorney and is intended to provide access to a third party should the owner lose the ability to access their stuff for some reason other than that they just forgot their PastWord again. Not a month goes by now where I do not receive some birthday reminder from some dear departed Facebook friend that Facebook doesn't realize died some time ago. I'm confident that those peoples' families have no clue how to access their relative's account for the purpose of shutting it down. None of us were granted eternal life except, of course, on our internet accounts. Part of Reconning involves acknowledging this simple fact. We're finite.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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