The Miracle of the Disappearing Smartphone

Something extraordinary, indeed miraculous, happened to me over the Thanksgiving holiday: I lost my smartphone.  I had been listening in my room to some sound files on it in preparation for a concert I would be giving shortly.  Thanksgiving dinner was being prepared in the kitchen.  Somewhere between listening and sitting down to eat, the phone disappeared.  I scoured every nook and cranny of my room, even the trash bin, but the phone is lost and likely to remain so.  Only St. Anthony knows where it is now.

I officially attribute the loss to a miraculous intervention of Almighty God.  You see, I had been intending to get rid of the phone for some time and go back to the primitive flip phone which I had used since college.  I had originally purchased the smartphone for the sole purpose of getting the Navigator app, which I sorely need, being terrible at directions.  The problem is, along with the Navigator came a whole panoply of bells and whistles: e-mail, text messaging, a camera, a notepad, the aforementioned recording device, and of course Internet access.  Also, an alarm clock (which I also need; I hate getting up early in the morning).  And probably even more stuff that I didn’t even know about, simply because there’s a limit to how much time I can spend fiddling with a piece of plastic.

I had recently come to the conclusion that this phone was more misery than it was worth.  Having Infinity in one’s pocket is not a pleasant experience for me.  In my view, being able to whip out an electronic device and find out in an instant what the weather will be in Baltimore tomorrow, or what movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 1974, is not a boon to civilization.  It leads to a sense of possessiveness, pride, and self-sufficiency, an illusion of God-like control.  It leads to isolation from human relationships and from the world God made.  Glued to our phones, we become walking receptacles of information instead of living, breathing human beings capable of entering into real communion with our fellow man and our Lord.

In my case, it led to a constant feeling of nervousness and stress which only abated when I turned the blasted thing off every night and plugged it to its charger for its daily refueling.  I’m one of those retro fellows who believe that a phone is for making phone calls — or, at most, for helping me find my way to the appointment I’m supposed to go to (and getting me up out of bed so I can go to it).  I hold to the old-fashioned belief that things have their distinctness, and that an object made by man for the sake of making calls shouldn’t dissolve into an all-purpose information portal.

Once, when browsing an art gallery in my hometown, I saw an amusing pair of paintings by a local artist.  It was a double portrait of a man and a woman, done in the style of Renaissance altarpieces.  The man and woman each had their hands cupped together, apparently in prayer.  Except, if you looked closely, they were each holding an ipod and “communing” with it.  Such is the new religion of the masses, the golden idol of our age.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a miracle as “a sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power.” The disappearance of my phone is a mystery, utterly inexplicable.  I always stuff the phone in my pants pocket, but instead it ended up in a black hole.  I believe that God caused it to disappear into thin air in order to expedite my half-held intention to get rid of it.  He sensed that I was stalling a bit, so He took matters into his own hands and got rid of it Himself.

The Catechism goes on to state that “the miracles of Jesus were messianic signs of the presence of God’s kingdom.” Indeed, and how better for God to reassert His presence and priority in a person’s life than to sever him, without warning, from an intrusive earthly object?

For God alone is Infinity, the source of all knowledge and wisdom, the ocean of our delight.  Not some cheap machine.

Of course, I’m not a Carthusian monk.  I do depend on technology somewhat to get me through the day.  And so I have had my old flip phone reactivated.  It has been like a reunion with a lost friend.  My nervousness is gone, and I now enjoy a measure of peace that I didn’t have before.  And in a stroke of serendipity, I discovered I can get Navigator on my flip phone after all! So my affair with the smartphone was an unnecessary intermezzo, soon to be forgotten.

I am now once again a Paleolithic Man, and loving it.  I will continue the campaign to de-technologize myself, and in the process reconnect with the higher things.  I’m Savonarola and I’m on a roll.  Next stop…cancel Facebook!


An “Annunciation” ipod cover


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