Losing my iReligion

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I was outside the cathedral.

The glass and steel one.

I entered through the enormous glass doors and passed by the security guards. Climbed the glass steps.

I’m both excited and nervous when I go to the iChurch.

Thrilled by the artifacts and the iCons. And yet at the same time nervous the iChurch will take all my money.

And when I tear my eyes from the shiny new stuff and look at the noisy congregation – I mean consumergation – who are also thrilled and also being monitored by the blue-t-shirted novice priests with their lightweight card readers I begin to question my religion.  I want to …pray different.

But I didn’t have time to linger on this: My soul was broken.

I mean my iPhone.

I didn’t know why it was broken. That’s why I needed help: Because I can’t see inside my soul.

But the geniuses can. There’s a “bar” of geniuses. And I had an appointment.

A high ranking member of the order of coloured t-shirts was in charge of herding the consumergation away from the bar of geniuses. Some of the parishioners looked on in pain.

“They’re not doing anything at the moment – can’t I just go and see one of them now?” asked one. “I’m in my lunch hour”.

Red t-shirt looked at the iOrderofservice-pad. “No. You can’t just go and see a genius. You have to make an appointment”.

She turned to me. I gave her my details. She winced at her screen and told me to take a seat on the pew with the other sinners.

I rehearsed my story: “It just stopped working.”.

Time passed.

Eventually my name was called.

I was led to the bar of geniuses. The geniuses wear the sacraments of orange t- shirts and are mostly trying to grow beards and they look bored of dealing with supplicants.

I sat down, wiped the screen of my iSoul and put it on the altar.

“Talk to me, dude”, the genius commanded.

I guessed he meant about how I broke my soul.

I told him how it just kept switching itself off ever since I installed commandment iOS5.

I showed it to him. He didn’t look at it.

“ Did you drop it?” he asked.

“No”

“Did you get it wet?”

“No”

“You didn’t drop it in the sink or spill a drink on it?”

“No”

“And yet it doesn’t work?”

“No…I mean I might have used it when it was raining once but it wasn’t raining hard. It was barely raining actually. It was just a really short phone call…”

He sat back, nodding. The confession had begun. This inquisition was easy.

He lazily pulled out a tiny torch. He looked inside the hole where the earphones go into the iSoul. Said nothing, then he shone the torch inside the port at the bottom of the iSoul.

“Okay”, he said neutrally. “I need to have a closer look”.

This was it. This was the moment. Only the geniuses have the tools to peer inside the impenetrable. We miserable consumers have no way of looking inside. The knowhow is forbidden. The obelisk lights up. Or not.

And if not we are condemned to a life of darkness. I can’t see inside my iPhone. I can’t see inside my iPad. I can’t remove the muscular-looking cover that hides the workings of my car’s engine block  from meddling fingers.

That’s because we sinners are not supposed to try and fix anything. But we can buy an extended warranty.

(And I labour the point I know but) we are conditioned to make a leap of faith in technology because it is sealed off. My iPhone works because it does. It stops work because it does. It has two buttons. When it breaks I press them in that tiny number of combinations you can try when there are only two buttons. If that doesn’t fix it I stop meddling.

I didn’t realise it was happening to me but I have been conditioned not to want to know how stuff works; Just accept that it does. Or does not.  I am baby-fied.

Which is why I was drawn to lean further and further toward the genius when he said he was going to look inside the phone. I wanted to know how he does it.

But of course he won’t open it out there in full view of the consumergation. That would demystify the iSoul: The i works in mysterious ways and the entire worldwide iChurch is going to keep it that way.

So the genius picked up the phone and walked behind the bar of geniuses into the sacristy.

I sat there for a long time. It felt a long time anyway; I had nothing to fiddle with.

The consumergation throbbed all around.

I wondered what would happen. Would I get a pristine new soul? Or would I serve penance with a broken one until my contract expired and I got a new one.

Or I could buy a brand new one here and now. Blessed is the consumer because he doesn’t know how to fix stuff but he has a credit card.

The tithe, the percentage of my income I spend on technology, is as high as anyone else’s.  Surely the genius can tell that and be forgiving.

As ever the decision lay in the hands of people better qualified to know. I would just have faith it was the right decision.

…Well, I don’t know what the d-iVine revelation was but I didn’t care because I got a new phone.

And in any event I couldn’t really hear what the genius was saying because  the voice in my head was saying : “Shuddup. Take the new phone. Don’t question that which can’t be understood.”

So it was pretty cool, really. I don’t know what the problem was. Don’t care. I’m happy.

Except that something rankles. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. And it is not that technology isn’t wonderful; It is.

As Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “”The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower.”

But for most of us technology is impenetrable and alien and mysterious. To a degree that was always the case. But now it’s more so. In the mission to make technology useful it is simplified, black-boxified and we are being taught to accept ever more ignorance.

Just face west toward California and pray it continues to work. The people there are even smarter than geniuses. Ipso facto they must be smarter than us. We are being conditioned: Accept mystification. Accept ignorance. Pay the tithe and say: this is cool.

 

The 10 iCommandments – by Jon Marsh who updated an old painting by Gustav Dore

 

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