This is a guest post by my good friend, Christian Gunning, who was looking for a home for this piece of creative-nonfiction-by-a-geek.  His tech-ier side can be found at his blog, Life in Code.



When conversation runs itself dry, when sex is neither a logical nor reasonable option, when the night grows thin and old and dry– what then does one do with oneself? This is an age-old question, once answered with ritual and campfires, later with drugs, tv, money or reckless self-abandon. But really, when left to the horror-flick walk-in meat-locker of one’s own mind in the late, quiet evening hours, what options are there? 

One is prone to wander, if there are places to wander. 
One is prone to wonder, and doubt. Lord knows there are always things to doubt. 
One is prone to stare at the refrigerator. 
Which holds a piece of paper that contains a string of letters and numbers, written in bold, clear text. As if they meant something. 
Which they do. 

Haven’t we all run away and hidden in a secret place, if just for a while? 
If not, do so now. Try it. 
See if anyone can find you, if anyone cares even to look. 
Why bother? You’ll come back eventually, right? 

This is molten heart of a secret — no one else cares. 

Meaning is in the eye of the beholder; we all learned this somewhere, sometime. Whether in the arms of a beloved, in the thrall of a precious album, book, or lecture, or perhaps face-to-face with mortality and divinity: if we are lucky, we see beauty and magic and pixie-dust *somewhere*, and ask not to be judged too much about the _where_ of it. It is ours, singular. And there is power in singularities, where ever they may be.  

So why would meaning and power reside in a string of letters and numbers? This, my friends, is modernity. Post-modernity, if you like, or even ex-post-modernity. This is the present, the early 21st century. This is an era of both exposure and of secrets. And it pays to tell one from the other. 

The other molten hear of a secret is that it’s bearer is the only one that _can_ care.  

If others could share, then maybe they would, but they can’t, so they won’t. Are you happy now? 

The amazing thing about passwords is that they’re yours by virtue of their very existence. They have no meaning other than their secrecy, their criptocy, their abject inscrutability. How many secrets do you hold within your breast that __don’t matter__? And how is it that we, you and i and everyone else, have built a society around little bits of data that no one gives a fuck about, except that they do? 

English has a word for this meaning-without-meaning. Entropy. Properly speaking, one might refer to ”informational entropy” in the Shannon (who worked for Ma Bell back in the government monopoly days) sense of the word. Very different from the dirty-room, time-to-sweep-the-floor sense of the word. It indicates unexpectedness; one might interpret a maximization of entropy as, ”totally fucking unexpected”, at least in the informational sense.  

Dear reader: I’m torn over whether I should give a fuck about you. Are you interesting? How interesting? More interesting than the WiFi password written in clear block print upon the fridge? Prove it. Can I predict your response to this sentence? Do you make the same replies when prodded about god and country, sex and children, money and politics, energy and environment, word for word, over and over? Tell me something I don’t know. Say something different. It doesn’t have to be right, but I sure would like to care. 


~ by Lenore Gusch on April 13, 2012.

One Response to “Passwords”

  1. Well said, friend. Well said.

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