Vanity thought #1050. Software choices

So we have hard choices, soft choices, and down at the bottom of our priorities list lie software choices. After a recent post about Apple I felt there was something to say about the rest of the computer world, too.

Hard choices, as I discussed yesterday, aren’t hard because they are hard to make, they are hard because they are hard to follow. Deciding to surrender our body, minds, and souls to Kṛṣṇa is one of such choices. Deciding to follow regulative principles for the rest of our lives is another.

Softer choices are decisions made in course of our material lives. Career, families, that sort of thing. It doesn’t really matter which way we decide as long as we keep chanting and following the program but it can make chanting and following a lot easier, or so we think.

Actually it doesn’t – we can’t change our karma and the difficulty in performing devotional service is controlled directly by the Lord so it’s all a storm in a teacup, soon to be forgotten. We only worry about such choices because we still believe that we are the controllers in this world and our decisions somehow change things.

Software choices are even less important than that, or are they?

It would make no difference to me what operating system or what computer I use to type up these posts, for example. It’s a tad more difficult on a tablet or a phone and there would be no diacritics marks for Sanskrit words but, perhaps, typing slower would make me think longer and so “different” here might come out “better” from the quality point of view.

I still think that software choices matter a lot more than we usually assume. Why? Because they control the way we think, they way we organize our work, they way we plan things. Operating systems impose a certain atmosphere that could be helpful or detrimental to our spiritual progress in the same way that atmosphere at work or at home does.

Some people spend a LOT of time with their computers, probably more than talking to their wives or their bosses, so there’s an argument to make this into a quality time.

Let’s start with Windows. For most people Windows is all they know, they grew up on Windows XP, probably updated to Windows 7 several years ago, and view Windows 8 as a natural next step in their computing. Some evil tongues say it’s an unnatural step but let’s talk about generic Windows experience.

In Windows universe you can be either a faithful, compliant consumer or a pirate. Chances are, if Windows didn’t come pre-loaded with your computer, you have a pirated version installed instead, and that defines the rest of your relationships with your software.

You either pay for everything, MS Office, Photoshop etc. or you pirate everything simply because “everyone else does”. Even if you don’t pirate you search for freeware to fulfill all your needs. The more free programs you have the more successful you feel. Free anti-virus, free firewall, free maleware scanners, free office, free image editing programs – that’s your staple.

See how the choice of the OS has affected your thinking and your attitudes? You want free stuff, you expect free stuff, you feel entitled to free stuff. How’s that going to help your devotion?

Not only devotees, ordinary people also feel that this is just not right, that we have to pay for things we use, it’s only fair, and that’s why all those freeware companies can survive by charging for their “pro” versions. Or how file hosting services make their money even if they still distribute pirated games and movies. In this case instead of asking to pay for the content they ask you to pay for speedier delivery of the stolen goods.

In ISKCON we traditionally pirated everything we could, using the same old argument of engaging things in service to Kṛṣṇa so we are actually doing copyright owners a favor. That might be true but it still shouldn’t feel right – we are not thieves, if Kṛṣṇa doesn’t give us money to pay for something then we probably don’t need that thing at all. We WANT it and then we steal it – how’s that helpful to our devotion?

But what if you buy into Microsoft corporate message and faithfully pay for everything? It’s not that much considering that Apple finds plenty of people to charge even more. Will it help us develop a proper, responsible attitude when we use MS products?

Well, if you buy into MS message than you take their association. You accept their reasoning, accept their value system, you learn to think in “MS way”, and that is only the beginning. Corporate messages are constructed in such a way as to lure you into total dependence on their products. They will try everything to make you emotionally hooked up, they will make you share in their victories and defend them from outside attacks. Whenever you come across a debate of Windows vs Apple vs Android you will naturally take the side of MS. The more you pay for MS software and service, the more defensive you become.

Once you step on that road, you’ll become MS property, they will be milking your life force until you die. They will try to make profit from everything you do with your computers and it won’t be profit only in monetary terms, it will be profit in diverting your consciousness – you’ll become their servant.

Do we really need this as devotees? Obviously not.

What should we do? How should we approach this Windows thing so that it doesn’t turn us either into thieves or corporate slaves? I don’t know, I don’t think there’s one correct answer. We should remember that our software is non-different from anything else in this world and should be engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service, not ours.

This means that we should not get personally involved at all. We should know why we are using our computers and how to connect their use to Kṛṣṇa and we should never forget about it. Same method as we apply to our cars or houses or temples, I suppose.

Some devotees get totally fascinated with their computers, even addicted, what should they do about that? Same as with every other thing – engage their addiction in Kṛṣṇa’s service. Once one such devotee gave me a lot of grief by constantly tinkering with a computer we used for accounting but he is still a pūjārī while I’m not. Somehow Kṛṣṇa didn’t see his fascination with computers as a deviation and now he is the go to man in that temple whenever anyone’s computer needs fixing.

Another devotee with decades of service behind him got a second hand computer and stayed until 2AM playing some old DOS games on it. That was probably one of the reasons his wife eventually left him and his family fell apart.

Point is – when we understand what computers do to us personally we can find our own, personal solutions. There’s no point in recommending anything in particular, partly because whatever we decide to do is an illusory decision anyway.

Perhaps it’s not our choices that define us as devotees but our awareness and attitudes in whatever situation our karma forces on us. From this POV, this post in an attempt to create awareness of one aspect of our lives that we don’t usually discuss in Bhāgavatam classes, and I don’t know why we should, so here’s plugging that gap.


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