On Data Loss, Fresh Starts, and Grace

So I woke up yesterday morning and all the data on my IPhone had been erased, wiped clean.

“Hello!” it said as I gazed at the screen after leaving it the previous evening performing what was purported to be a standard update of my operating system.

That “Hello” (in umpteen languages!) had an eerie chill to it, as if if I had just removed a new phone from the box. All my contacts, apps, photos, recent messages, emails, notes and audio memos to myself from my walks—gone, emptied, pffft…

Catastrophe, of course. Or at least a modern, pampered, affluenza-infected version of one.

Hours later, those hours having been spent on tech support with helpful but only half-clued in reps from our better phone companies and smartphone manufacturers, I managed to get all my data back from the cloud, lose it all again when launching iTunes a bit later, then regained about 70 percent of it once more, though all that remained of my text messages was a small handful from nearly three years and two phones ago. (Don’t that beat all!)


A friend and I were talking about what a Wild West the tech world seems to be again now—devices and platforms and programs and models and updates, with connectivity among them all being required but utterly, frigginly impossible to actually make happen without a relentless stream of glitches. (Parents, train your children to be IT professionals; they’ll never lack for work!)

So we endure these breakdowns as an expected cost of doing business, however much they challenge our sanity, and we limp along as best we can, giving part of our lives, on an ongoing basis, to slightly fevered attempts to keep some kind of even keel with the tech gods. So be it.



But as the day unwound, much of it tortuous, I kept coming back to that moment of awakening to my phone and its entire contents being erased (“Hello!”), it not knowing me or my stuff from Adam. Asking me to start over.

Tell me who you are, and with what you want to commence newly filling up your awaiting empty drive!

Just wanna bring all the old stuff over, lock stock & barrel? The old pics, the old contacts, the emails, the half-assed video snippets, the text messages—no matter how ponderous, passionate or snipey?

Maybe do some pruning, leaving behind the deadwood, the dead people, the dead relationships?

There is so much in that history, yes? We carry it with us, a touchstone of identity, of experience, of pride, of grudge, of guilt. Do we dare let it go, however much it may still wound or weigh us down?

Or else: a fresh start! The song of every crime getaway or prison breakout: “Come on, we can make a new life where no one knows us; we’ll settle down and pretend none of this ever happened!”


But let’s step back a bit. That complete data wipe—that’s not what grace and posterity require, is it?

Grace doesn’t mean forgetting or denying—pretending those things we said or did or didn’t do, those opportunities we didn’t seize, those failures we didn’t see coming, didn’t happen, or were really someone else’s fault.

A clean slate doesn’t mean erasure; it means acceptance. A fresh start is about forgiving, not forgetting. No matter the technical glitches or memory fades, at least part of us still lingers in the cloud.

So we set about forgiving, among other things, the limits of our best intentions and goodness. Being made whole in our humanness, our bumbling and stumbling, not the perfection of a data scrub or 10-point program for a New You.

That “Hello!” can’t be for someone without a past or identity, even if some of it does have to be retrieved kicking and screaming or merely abject from the cloud. Because when the Clean Slate says “Hello!”, we have to say “Hello!” back, and may the introductions begin.

We’d better have something in the files to carry on the conversation.

Had a good time giving probably 50 versions of this classic spiritual a good listen, some of them overwrought, some underwhelming, none with the phrasing and ferocity of (The Very Reverend) Al Green’s…



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2 comments to On Data Loss, Fresh Starts, and Grace

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    A wonderful literal and metaphorical reminder Mr Drew – appreciate the “… doesn’t mean erasure; it means acceptance.” – listening to the most reverend Al as I reflected on this in my own life… all the big as well as little letting things be and moving the conversation to the next step/new configuration whether asked for/wanted or not… for me the grace comes in somehow being able to make the shifts life demands especially when it was not in the ole master plan!!

  • Loren Webster  says:

    Hopefully if that happened to me I’d be at home or else I wouldn’t know how to contact any of my family members, or myself for that matter. Don’t really want to be reminded that that can happen.

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