It was on this day in 2007 that the i-phone was first introduced to the world, and things have never been the same since. Hard to believe it was just fifteen years ago that Jobs’ invention, or, more properly, innovation (for cell phones existed before then) changed the world, and our perception of the world. The i-phone turned mobile telephones from clunky bricks to sleek, ergonomic devices that people wanted to hold, that slipped easily into pockets and purses, that connected us with each other in ways we couldn’t imagine. And it’s difficult for those who grew up in the pre-‘smartphone’ era to have a notion of what it was really like. Payphones? No texting? No scrolling? Times when you simply could not be gotten a hold of? (And pardon my grammar) Books? Newspapers? Conversation and asking directions? Radio, and CD’s? Daydreaming and musing? Contemplation? Privacy, as the eyes – or i-‘s – are always upon us?
I’m not sure of the providential coincidence of this anniversary. One can scarcely imagine Peter and Paul evangelizing with i-phones, tweeting out inspired exhortations. There is a reason, as Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his brief treatise ‘Christ and the Media‘ why the Word came to Earth before modern media, during the pax Romana and verbal communication. And Mr. Muggeridge was writing in the age of plain old television.
As we wrote recently of nukes, no technology is intrinsically evil, and it all may, in theory at least, be put to some good use. One could ponder such for i-phones, and their mimics of the android variety. They make fine advanced walkie-talkies for military purposes, or as paperweights in homes. Other than that, the world would likely be a better place without them, especially for young people, opening a portal into all sorts of spiritual mayhem, even if many of us are drawn into the mobile milieu by dint of necessity.
If we must have a phone – and we should all ponder that ‘must’ – strive to minimize their use. Resist the allure of the screen. Pick up that book we’ve been meaning to read. Meet someone in person for coffee or a glass of vino. There is a benefit to keeping in touch with relatives and friends separated by distance – technology does have its place – but might we call instead of text?
For an ‘I’ is not a phone, but a person, made in God’s image, Who Himself lives in an eternal ‘I-Thou’ relationship as a Trinitarian communion of love.
And love, always, is personal and incarnational. As the old Bell commercial had it, ‘reach out and touch someone’. No, not in some creepy sense (why is everything so tinged nowadays?) but rather as Cardinal Newman’s motto exhorted, cor ad cor loquitur, ‘heart speaking to heart’, a conversation – literally, ‘turning towards the other’ – that’s best done unpixellated.