Friday, September 22, 2006


"Default, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." OK, I guess it's too early in the morning to mess with Shakespeare, but I've been thinking about the word default all week.

I am talking about default in the computer sense. This is the definition that has swept through our language since the beginning of the technological revolution:
A preselected option adopted by a computer program...when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer.

For those of you who aren't computer literate, I'll state it differently: My computer has its mind made up. It has a predefined way to format things I type, and, unless I specify otherwise, it assumes I want "the usual" and every document I create will be set up in that predetermined way. I guess it's like going into your favorite restaurant and having your waiter bring you your usual glass of iced tea before you even order it. You always have iced tea and your waiter knows this. It's automatic - no planning, no thinking, no decision-making involved.

However, what if one day you walk into the restaurant and you have a hankering for Coke? Even more importantly, what if you have evolved into a bona fide Coke aficionado and you never want iced tea again? Before you can even open your mouth to voice your order, here comes your waiter with the iced tea. Iced tea has become your default order, and you'd better speak up pretty quickly if you want something else instead.

Or you could have a private conversation with the waiter and tell him you want Coke from now on as a general rule.

The word processing program for my iMac is called Pages. and in general I think it's a great program for my needs, but there was one minor problem I wanted to overcome. When I open a blank document, the default setting is a rather ample space between paragraphs. I don't like that space, so each time I begin a new document, I go into the formatting options and narrow that space. It doesn't take very long to do this, but my lazy but productive self thought there must be a better way. I needed to have a personal conversation with the waiter and change the standing iced tea order. I could not, however, figure out a way to change this default. So I did what any normal person would do - I asked my geek family members to figure it out for me.

My son Matthew came up with the method, I changed the default, and now I'm content....well, almost. Now I want a default for my life.

For one thing, I'd like my eating and exercise habits to have a reliable default. One that says, say, 90% of the time I eat right and exercise regularly without even thinking about it, and I'd allow the other 10% of the time for slacking. I want a default so that without even thinking about it, I would exhibit patience over irritability, love over anger, generosity over selfishness, acceptance over anxiety, and hope over pessimism. I want good habits and good attitudes to be my default approach.

Now my Pages software has its spacing default set to a narrower width. Every time I create a new document, it will automatically have that narrower width spacing. It is set until I decide to change it again.

I wish life were that easy!

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