In Sunday’s New York Times, Ian Urbina wrote a remarkable (and lengthy) article about the designing of our passwords. He details how passwords are the new keys opening the doors of our various internet worlds.
“Several years ago I began asking my friends and family to tell me their passwords. I had come to believe that these tiny personalized codes get a bum rap. Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar – these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.”
I am intrigued by the idea that our lives necessitate the creation of small coded passwords in order to operate in the technological atmosphere. And in order to make this cipher memorable these passwords often reflect intimate landmarks. It is fascinating to consider that every day we employ keywords that reflect circumstances and memories decoded by the individual alone. This refreshes my awareness of the profound inner lives of others. Often I am in danger of assuming that people are exactly what they present to the world. Am I the totality of what I present to the world? Are you? Are we not all an amalgamation of history, relationships, dreams, successes, failures and longings? And don’t we all present to society a mere fraction of the whole inner person? How easy it is to dismiss, judge, assume and move on without recognizing that everyone has fallen in love, been rejected, recovered from illness, and nurtures undisclosed truths. I can’t help but wonder if that information makes it a little easier to be patient with the neighbor and the stranger during this busy time of year. And if recognizing that within everyone there is that which is unknown and unrevealed, can we not extend a greater level of respect for the courage within the person next to us, who in spite of shame, anxiety or secrets has chosen to get out of bed, wash their face and walk into a new day?
Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides. ~ Andre Malraux