Not only the government is shut down. Yesterday, as I was downloading a new application, my computer crashed, creating a catastrophe I had not foreseen: the disappearance of every file, program, family photo, financial record and song into some black hole, from where, the experts inform me, they are never coming back. My new back-up time capsule had been incorrectly configured, so it too was empty. The perfect storm. My life had literally evaporated into cyberspace. My first thought was to blame my enemies, although I didn't believe them capable of such a feat. Then I became paranoid about identity theft, imagining that a heavily bearded James G. Blaine running AK47s over the Khyber Pass, while my bank accounts were being drained. But since all my passwords were on my computer, I can't verify that. I had literally ceased to exist, and since it had not been a good day to begin with, that was a depressing thought. But nothing clears the mind like a good crisis, and I remembered all those existentialist heroes who believed we must create our own meaning in an absurd world. I was free of so much detritus, most of it of my own making. I seem to be the same person without it. The lessons? Be careful downloading new programs and make sure your back-up system works. But remember that you can survive a shutdown and emerge refreshed. Just as America can if our president holds firm against the extortionists.