21st Century Gluttony

I got an Iphone, and I got a Bluetooth.  My friend Eric thinks this may be a sign that the earth has stopped spinning.  I am with him that it is a sign, but a sign of what?  

I felt a bit “forced” into my recent purchase. My little LG flip-phone,  free with two-year Verizon contract, was working just fine. Sure, I had Iphone envy, but I didn’t think I was ready to make that kind of commitment, to have the world at my fingertips all of the time. I have a computer after all, isn’t that enough? How much information, and ways to access it do I really need anyway?  

I lost my phone while buying a plastic container of sliced watermelon at Wal-Mart.  You may be asking yourself, “Kate, what were you doing at Wal-Mart?” , and the answer is : I was watching all of my prejudices wake up and dance before my eyes.  Oh, and the battery in my car was watching its life flash before it’s eyes, doing the battery equivalent of Cheyne- Stokes breathing, the irregular breathing pattern you sometimes see in dying humans: breathing, stopping, breathing slower, deeper, stopping, until eventually they give up the ghost.  I was pretty sure I needed a new battery, so after yoga I headed down the road to Wal-Mart.  Close. Convenient. Cheap.

I had just sent a text message from my little LG to Eric explaining my feelings of discomfort while waiting in the Wal-Mart automotive department, the smell of tires and the sound of screaming babies creating an ambiance I found displeasing.  The  cashier lady doing her duty behind the counter had long fingernails filled with black grime, smelled like cigarette smoke, and she coughed big wet coughs without covering her scantily toothed mouth.  Icky. 

The watermelon was good.  Cold, firm, and sweet, as I ate, I flirted with a little boy who was waiting in line with his mother,  we winked, smiled, and waved.  Then I reached into my purse to get my phone, to check for Eric’s reply. Gone. I checked all the pockets.  I retraced my steps. I went to customer service. Gone. I called my phone on the toothless cashier ladies phone to make sure LG wasn’t hiding in some space in my purse I missed, aware of the invisible creatures my fingers were caressing, and inviting to host. I listened for the familiar cricket chirp that my niece Rhiannon had selected for me last Christmas. Silence. It was gone.

I had plans that afternoon to go to a retirement party for a nurse  that I dearly love, and afterwards I was meeting my girlie friend Melissa in Tempe for a movie at The Valley Art. But God had other plans for me. I went to the Verizon store and learned I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade, the phone I had would cost a hundred bucks as a “refurb” and take a few days to get there, and for the HTC Incredible, I would have to wait a month. Yes, I had rolled around with the idea of a smart phone, thinking I might take the leap before I moved to California, it would come in handy in a strange town, but I wasn’t sure yet. I considered this:  Do I really NEED a cell phone?  What if I relied on email, Facebook, and Skype for my communication needs?  Of course it only took a moment for me  to realize that the lifestyle I created kept me tethered to a cell phone.  It kind of upset me.

I missed Anne’s retirement party, and I sent Melissa 3 messages on Facebook hoping  she would get them in time. I had to cancel, and I didn’t have her phone number, it, along with all my other contacts: gone.  I needed a new phone, had to have one, numero uno priority.  I didn’t feel safe without one.  I visited the Verizon store three times before making my decision, each time leaving to go check if Melissa responded, and to borrow a phone to call my phone, and to check in with the customer service department at Wal-Mart. Melissa got my message, but my phone wasn’t going to be found. 

I didn’t want anything Verizon was offering. I went home and looked online for an at&t store ( I learned I could get an Iphone for about  the same price I could get another LG, and I didn’t have to WAIT for my Iphone.) , stored the address in my head, and off I went, to get my phone that has, ” more information stored on it than the first space shuttle”. I opted to pay the 125 dollar fee to get out of my Verizon contract; to be a free agent ( for 2 minutes), to be in charge of my cell phone fate ( hahahahahahahahah) . This whole process took a few hours, and during this time I became acutely aware of how much we depend on these little machines, on computers.  Yes, we all know we need them, but it makes me a bit uneasy, all this dependence on technology.  How much of my peace was lost this day, running around in 115 degree heat, scrambling to get the best deal, to feed my need for a  cell phone?  A whole bunch.

I’m not saying there is anything “wrong” with our dependence.  Of course there are really wonderful things about being able to connect with people all over the world, people you never thought you would hear from again. having blogs, and sharing whatever we want  to with lots and lots and lots of people.  Having the ability to ask a question, and have it answered in a moment, finding a great restaurant, and on and on and on. It’s fabulous. I love it.  Thanks technological wizards.  Good job!  Neat-o!

Melissa laughed when I told her how much I LOVED my new Iphone.  She is a user, and assured me that I would soon become disenchanted with my new toy, our relationship would be a stormy one; a love/hate kinda thing. She pissed on my party, but she was right. My beloved new toy has dropped a few  important calls that cost me some time and some money, and I’ve experienced some other equally frustrating glitches. LG  couldn’t do all the neat tricks Iphone can do, but I didn’t expect him to. I knew what he was capable of, and he didn’t disappoint me.  Out of frustration, I posted  “fuck you Iphone” on Facebook from my Iphone,  and got some interesting replies. Someone said, “you know you can just throw your phone in the trash”  and , my sister posted, ” it’s okay to enjoy it.  Your not selling out.” But, it’s simply not that simple.  The most helpful and insightful post came from Ian, this quote from Novalis, ” The visible clings to the invisible;the audible to the inaudible.”   All the noise of technology is the former, and ME, the real me, my soul, is the later. Yes. Poetic clarity.

I can’t just throw it away.  Duh.  I live here in the US of A, I am a “productive member of society”, and…I don’t have a land line 🙂  I need it! And Dawn, as far as selling out goes, I sold out the moment I decided to come back to earth as a human, to be put into the trance that makes me believe, most of the time, that I am separate from God.  that’s the only selling out going on.

I’m addicted to technology. A stone cold addict.  I check my both of my email accounts several times a day, I check Facebook more than that. When I am at work, I am tied to a computer when I’m not running around doing patient care. I am bored and anxious sitting at a desk under flourescent lights, loud noises  exploding all around me. I go online, check this, check that. It gives my agitated mind something else to do. A human being in an artificial environment seeking artificial escape.

 Two nights ago, a  dream woke me at 2am.  I fumbled for my notebook in the dark so that I could write down the symbols.  Eggs, water, kitten, beds, sexy tall man singing to me with a  guitar.  I couldn’t find my pen, so I reached for the light, and I instead my hand somehow found my Iphone. I turned it on, and attempted to go online to look at facebook.  Why?  I have an idea.  Habit. I have created a deep well in my psyche,  and it is now a reflex.  And I’m not comfortable with it.

Has technology become just another balm for our restlessness? A drug to take us out of the anxiety and uncertainty of our times.  How would we feel without our computers and smart phones?  Even for just a day?  Does the thought of this bring tightness to your chest, is your heart beating faster now?  Think about it. Are you addicted too? 

Just a couple of years ago I was a self-described Luddite, self-described because I had been called this by friends many times, and I agreed with them.  The computer I am typing this on is my first that hasn’t been a hand me down from one of my generous computer savvy friends. Today I am saturated with information coming at me from illuminated screens promising a few moments of distraction, leading to hours, leading to days.

I know this is normal in our culture.  But I believe our culture is profoundly sick in many ways, and many of our priorities are inverted.  So, I will just keep asking myself  the questions.  Why am I going to turn the computer on?  Am I checking out? I will impose some boundaries on my computer/smart phone use, ( thanks Eric :))   Not because I am worried I am “selling out”, but because I am left feeling  numb and disconnected after all of it.  After distracting myself from my life for so long. One could argue that the time spent on machines is our life; our life as it is happening at that time. I wouldn’t disagree, but I would say that I want to spent more of my life connected and engaged with things I can touch, smell, and feel.  Deeply. I am uncomfortable relying on things outside of myself to make me feel okay.  I need food, people, a job, etc.  But any of these things can turn into another way to medicate  against the raw feeling of  simply being alive,  they too, can become an “addiction”.

  So, I am going into self-imposed, self and friend directed treatment for technology addiction.  

Wish me luck.

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