The weak password is thoroughly domesticated. It is composed entirely of memories, of things I remember, of people and times that come easily to mind. The weak password reminds me of the first dog my family had, or the last. It reminds me of my most recent girlfriend who I will never see again. It reminds me of the number of the bicycle padlock when I was a child. Yet I realised that the weak password did not simply remind me of those memories; it became those memories through an act of digestion, it ate those memories and made its body from them, it took those memories so that now I cannot remember them myself; I can only visit them when I am using the weak password. So I forget that dog, that girlfriend, that bicycle, until the moment I must use the weak password, and then those memories return in a rush, overwhelming me; and when I am overwhelmed I am weak, I am made to look into the mirror, and I am made to realise my artful inadequacies. The weak password chastises me for my failings. It beckons every black hat hither, to take me away, to drag me down into those regions where identity begins to blacken, my face melting and being replaced by another nothing that has been waiting there for me. On the surface, meanwhile, my face is adopted by a crime family, is cared for and well-fed, is sent out into the world to do their work, to take my place on every platform, to drain dry my accounts, and my loved ones. What is this weakness? From whence does it emanate? Was it within me from the very beginning, from the moment I first drew breath? The weakness is trust. It emanates from my nature, from the blind trust of a helpless child emerging into its new world, dependent on the good will of those who look over it. And yes, I must acknowledge that it was in me from the very beginning, that it is a part of me, perhaps the greater part of me, for are not we all weak in the end? I cannot devote myself to strength eternal, or risk wearing myself down to bones; from beginning to end I must rely on others for my wellbeing, to supplement my weakness with their strength, and not to take advantage of that weakness. Yet the world is filled with the weak preying upon the weak; they think themselves strong because of it, and do not recognise their own weakness, until they in turn are preyed upon. None of that helps me now that such a predator wears my face in the world, and uses it to fool and fix their prey. I watch on helpless from below, where all of us unfortunates wait by the gates that lie beneath the surface of the world, waiting for those gates to open and offer us the only imaginable escape from this world.
The strong password holds up on its broad shoulders the entire sky. This second species of password is what the so-called experts treat us to adopt, but they misunderstand its true nature. They cannot see beneath its chainmail surface, past the overlapping letters and numbers and characters that force the eye away. The strong password is not simply strong, it is strength itself, its very form a fortress inside which you huddle as fiends wail away at the walls. In this world the strong do not prey upon the weak, for why need they? My own weakness becomes irrelevant behind brick five metres deep atop foundations sunk deep into the very ground of being described in the philosophers’ texts. The strong password girds the people, the nation, the leader; all are swept up in its strong arms, their interests and infrastructure made safe from external interference. In return the strong password asks only that we also become strong and remain strong, that we fortify our minds against influence and our bodies against corruption. I picture great parades in massed formations, children singing and women smiling and men marching, each in their right and righteous place, and above them all the strong password standing at the podium speaking only truth, however hard it might be for us to understand. While the weak password is easily understood, and thus easy to guess, the strong password is incomprehensible; its characters appear familiar but the way they are arranged is anything but, and this unintelligibility is itself the device by which it maintains this fortress. I walk the corridors of the fortress and explore its rooms at my leisure. These rooms are well-appointed, set with the finest fabrics and furniture, but never do they seem to hold signs of life; the beds have not been slept in, the chairs have not been sat in, the carpets are as clean as the day they were created. Yet I swear there are others locked away in the fortress with me; I find their writing on the wall, I find their pictures scattered on the floor. Sometimes I think I hear their voices and I rush down the corridors and through the rooms like a hurricane, scattering everything in my wake seven miles wide, but never do I find them, never do I see them. I begin to think: perhaps I mistook the cries of fury outside these fortress walls for the cries of my friends, or at least my potential friends; but no, I hear quiet voices talking of everyday things, just within earshot but just out of reach, and so I start to run again. These corridors go on forever and never end, and these rooms repeat with tiny variations, and never do I see a window on the world outside, or a door that might lead anywhere but to another room repeating with tiny variation, until I realise that the fortress is not a fortress but a prison, and the strong password my gaoler.
The attractive password is my confidant. I am soothed but not seduced by its easy manner, but my attraction is uncomfortable because I cannot identify what exactly I am attracted to. The attractive password is neither weak nor strong, but at the same time it is somehow both. Like the weak, it draws the attention of all; but like the strong it repels all advances. I feel that I can trust the attractive password, but do I feel that trust only because the password is attractive? I am weak, I am strong, I stumble, and the attractive password catches me as I fall into its arms. The skin on its arms is smooth and warm, a barely visible pelt of the softest hair providing comfort, yet there is strength in those arms, lowering me gently to the ground as its lips brush my ears. What does it say to me? I cannot tell you. The attractive password speaks in a low voice that can be barely heard, that is no more than the sound of the bees flirting across the fields, and as when the bees are gone only the honey remains. Outside the weather has become erratic – hurricane winds felling pylons, flash floods filling streets, wild fires murdering forests – and the meteorologists have all fled in fear of our unanswerable questions. Inside nothing can ever change. Ah, too late, too late! I thought I was not seduced, that I was able to resist, but I was not able to resist, and so I was seduced. I am compromised, unable to trust others – or even myself – any longer, uncertain about how powerful I am, or rather how weak I am. I melt in the hands of the attractive password, I allow it to touch me in ways that I have not been touched for such a long time, I let it inside me to the place where all my secrets are stored. And in that place, sheltered from the storms outside, the attractive password lays me down, and lays down next to me. Its hands reassure me that everything will be put right, that I will be put right; all the injuries I have suffered at the hands of the other passwords will be healed. I am dizzy with desire, my eyes shut tight against the world and only that strange low voice tutoring me in secret wisdom. For now it is clear that I am a tourist being guided past a multitude of sights and sounds, guided by the tender and expert hands of the attractive password to greater and greater heights, until at the very limit of my being I gasp and open my eyes as I am flooded not with pleasure but with knowledge. I have been taken to the edge of what is known, and now the attractive password withdraws its hands and quiets its tongue, leaving me to decide for myself if I wish to plunge over that edge into the heart of the universe.
The charged password is what causes the world to turn. The charged password cannot be domesticated in the way that the weak password can, and it is nowhere near as stable and secure as the strong password, and it is never as trustworthy as the attractive password; its power is unreliable at best and capricious at worst. It contains all the cryptic energy that has accumulated since the universe began, created at the same moment as the universe was created, the unbearable light of the act of creation casting the perfect shadow that can still be seen today, a depth-dark outline around every object. That shadow line makes the object possible by providing it with definition it would otherwise lack, while simultaneously obscuring it, making it slip from our sight in anything less than perfect light. The charged password holds both light and dark, and its task is obfuscation, revealing that there is a whole and healthy truth beneath the world we witness, but making it impossible for us to ever grasp that truth. If we could identify the charged password, all of that truth would become available to us in a single moment, and revelation upon revelation would wash over us like waves until we were punch-drunk with knowledge. All the knowledge of creation, and I cannot conceive of it, I do not want to conceive of it: try not to think about whether the human heart is capable of containing all that knowledge, but instead consider this: if knowledge is power, and that power is released, what does that release lead to? Blessed be that we are preserved because the charged password is too powerful to type, it would cause our keyboards to clattering collapse into their sixty keys; it would fry the minutiae of our monitors at the same time as it boiled our eyes like eggs. We are preserved from the power of the charged password precisely because of this same power, the potential it carries with it to up-end everything we believe we understand; it is too powerful to be forced up through the throat, and the resonance of its characters are out of reach of our vocal chords. It is only once we acquire knowledge of the charged password, however, that we have any hope of knowing even of the existence the fifth and final password – although as we shall soon see, knowing of the existence of that password brings us no nearer to knowing it proper. Meanwhile the charged password is the password of paradox, the shadow that makes light possible, the ignorance that makes knowledge possible. I experience this immanent tension as a tug of war between exertion and inertia, forcing my muscles and tendons and ligaments and bones into unbearable action even at the same time as I am held in place, the hub around which the entire universe turns and turns until it turns no more, and stops, and is still. Only then will the charged password be at rest.
There are rumours of a fifth password in this hierarchy, and those rumours are true. The hidden password, ah, the occult password, ah, the password that heralds the coming again, the rising up, the end of times. The end of times but not the end of worlds, for at the end there will be one world remaining, its landscape littered with passwords no longer needed. You will be able to wade knee-deep through these passwords, picking them up and playing with them as you please. Somewhere beneath this avalanche of passwords is the hidden password. There is no way to know where it lies, no way to see it beneath the thousands of millions of other passwords that cover the world. You could spend a lifetime, ten lifetimes, a hundred lifetimes searching and never find it, cursing your own inadequacy, your own poor luck, your own absent god, violently kicking over the traces of the world-that-was. In your desperation you pick random passwords from the great mulch, and test them out on your tongue. Most of these passwords achieve nothing, but some few of them will be the names of great angels, and pronouncing their names will summon them to finish their work. Their work is this: to sweep their sword across the space where you stand, to flense you until only your bones remain standing like some black and white cartoon, and then to arrange those bones into letters, and the letters into a word, and that word will be your password. The great angel will ascend once its work is complete, and your password will be added to the carpet of passwords that stretches to the horizon, where pits have been dug by demons, demons who shovel passwords into their pits day and night and day, who witness the heat of the pits burn so harsh that even demons’ faces begin to smoulder. Yet there is no heat harsh enough to destroy a password completely, and so their work is never done; as they shovelled passwords into their pits, so they shovel the remains of passwords out again and forever. One day a demon will strike his shovel on something that will not yield, and will hurry their hands to brush away the ash, and reveal the hidden password. It will leap up to the sky holding the password as the angels descend to desecrate its body, but they will be too late, and this too is part of the design. This demon will speak the hidden password aloud and the gates of heaven will be unlocked and the gates of hell will be unlocked and the gates within the earth will be unlocked, and all will rejoice as the hidden password unlocks the final secret. On that day all will be returned to factory settings, and we all – even the angels and the demons – will have one last chance to reset the world right. Until that day the hidden password is unknown to all, even to God.