Of Knees and iPhones

Darryl is in Australia on a filming expedition. He and Stig Dalstrom, aka “The Wild Orchid Man,” are scouting out the wild orchid species in the bush of Western Australia around Perth. A week from today I will drop Ranger off at his “other house,” and fly to join Darryl in Hobart, Tasmania. We will celebrate our third wedding anniversary in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Today is the only day we (Ranger and I) have no commitments! While I’ve been rounding up prescriptions, cleaning closets, returning calls and emails, we don’t have to be anywhere. We intend to keep it that way. A day of no interruptions from radio or TV. We will think deeply about some things, maybe come to new levels of understanding.

Ranger: “What do you mean, to ‘Think Deeply’?”

Me: “Heck if I know where this will lead me today. I do know that most days I feel like I’m skimming across the surface of life, interacting with things, with people, with topics that rush past me. I need a day of complete and total disengagement from those things so I can contemplate the meaning of life.”

Ranger: “You’d better get rid of your iPhone, then. You carry it everywhere, and check it constantly.”

Me: “Okay. I will give you that point. But, this morning I left it in the kitchen while we sat on the lanai drinking coffee, and I missed a text from Darryl. That was exactly what I didn’t want to do… but your point is still good. Let me leave it home today while I attend a meeting, go shopping, and walk you. Fair enough?”

Ranger is grudging in his reply: “Okay. Let’s see if this makes you more attentive and present. Which is exactly the point, right? You want to be present with the people you are with. You want to be present with YOURSELF and with me. You want to be present with Earth. So getting this distraction away from you will promote that, don’t you think?”

Me: “Say more about being present with myself… that’s a big thought right there.”

Ranger: “Let’s say you have that phone in your pocket while you’re walking, driving, even sitting with your coffee on a quiet morning. That phone is hard-wired to your brain just because it is there. You say that you have it in perspective, that you can turn it off or ignore it. but I disagree. Heck, in the middle of the night you get tiny beeps when an email comes in, and your body acknowledges that delivery. Remember when you went to Europe so long ago as an eighteen year old? You were off the grid, literally. There was a phone in the ‘digs’ you rented in Edinburgh, but you never made or received a call on it. Postal mail was the only connection your family had with you. Wasn’t that more freedom for you as a young girl than the crazy twenty-four hour hovering you now endure?”

Me: “Okay, and if I leave my phone turned off and spend the day without it, what happens to the family calls/texts? Everyone expects a response. How do I handle that?”

Ranger: “Make an announcement that your life is going to be modified. But now let’s get really serious. We can no longer get disconnected. Our challenge, frankly? Having the hardwiring that this technology brings become no more than that artificial knee you now sport…. it’s there, and it is part of life, but it is not your life.”

Me: “Okay, so my knee is there, and it’s permanent. I’m sorry you reminded me about it, because now it’s beginning to throb. What you are suggesting is that instead of being an obvious part of your life, it is there to enhance, never detract.”

Ranger: “There are people who come to your house, and I watch them as they settle in…. but not totally. They have their hand on their pocket, or arrange their purse under their chair. Their attention is mostly on that rather than on the people in the room, or the view out the window. How will you be different?”

Me: “I determine to be present with myself. I have this technology which has become part of my body.. my artificial knee, my iPhone. Now, There were times with the knee that were painful and embarrassing, when it stuck out there like a sore thumb. Now it is nearly completely integrated with my body, serving to enhance my existence. I am going to treat the phone in the same way. How will that look? Not by clutching at my pocket or making a lunge for my purse. But by integration like my knee. I know it’s there, but I’m not constantly aware of it.”

Ranger: “Well, if this is the extent of your ability to think deeply today, I think I’ll go take a nap, as will most of your readers. Maybe next week you can do it a bit better.”

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