In a desperate attempt to make lemonade out of the Windows lemon, I’ve decided to look upon Microsoft as my Zen master.
Perhaps I will be able to attain satori through my frustrating struggle with the baffling enigmas of Windows XP in much the same fashion as Hui-K’O cut off his left hand in his search for the Way. That is, the psychological maiming that my Microsoft Zen master makes me endure may be the prelude to recognizing the futility of human logic in seeking the ultimate.
Which for me, in computer terms, would be to have an operating system that actually operates. Reliably, safely, simply. My seeking for such, however, is a manifestation of clinging. So Microsoft regularly shakes up my ego-centered desire for stability and sensibleness.
Consider the Windows Update Zen teaching that I was given last night. Having heard that a slew of patches to fix critical security flaws in Windows and Office had been released, I fired up my wife’s computer to carry out an update for her.
Laurel’s laptop runs Windows XP with Service Pack 1 (SP1). When SP2 was released I tried to install it on her computer. Two times I came face to face with the blue screen of death. After each near death experience I was able to get things going again by restoring a full backup from an external USB drive.
Not surprisingly, that soured me on SP2. So I’ve been dutifully ignoring the Windows Update pleas to install SP2, choosing only the critical security updates for SP1. After the new updates were installed yesterday, a new message popped up in the system tray: after October 10, 2006, Windows Update won’t support SP1.
Ah! How marvelous is the inscrutability of my Microsoft Zen master. Staring at the message I was reminded of Tokusan’s famous declaration: “Thirty blows of my stick if you have something to say; thirty blows just the same if you have nothing to say.”
In other words, “you’re screwed either way.” For the Way lies beyond logic. Microsoft is trying to lead me beyond the narrow confines of the rational mind.
How else can I fathom the Windows XP koan I’ve been given? If you upgrade to SP2, the computer will stop working. Stick with SP1 and soon you will be unable to get new security updates. Eventually a cyber-attack will succeed, and the computer will stop working.
Tigers above me. Tigers below me. Mice gnawing on the vine that holds me. How sweet is the strawberry within my reach! Microsoft, thank you for enabling me to experience a Windows XP Zen story.
This is, of course, only one example of the many marvelous Zen lessons that Microsoft teaches me. Recently on my new ThinkPad laptop I have been encountering the wonderful utterance, “spooler subsystem app has encountered a problem and needs to close.”
Every time I read these words I am struck by the mystical genius of Windows. Words cannot point directly at the truth. They can only gesture in its direction. We must discover the Way ourselves, not through another.
Sure, Microsoft could have directly told me, “for some reason none of your printer drivers can be found; check your USB connections or restart the computer.” But how would I grow through such a common sense explanation?
Does a dog have Buddha nature? What is the sound of one hand clapping? All things return to the One; what does the One return to? What is a spooler subsystem app and why does it need to close?
Through such koans, may all sentient beings attain enlightenment. Except Macintosh users.