Sunday, May 21, 2017

life, not-so-interrupted


My phone frequently blurts out the following digital notification: “Medium power saving mode turned on  Your battery life has been extended.” The editor in me forgives the missing hyphen between “power” and “saving.” It even shrugs off the missing period after “turned on.” And why not be magnanimous? After all, the smartphone’s notification exudes generosity, hope, and optimism.

Sure, I can pretend to take some credit for the cellphone notification, owing to the settings I clicked on.

The word “notification” is a delicious one for an artisanal, homegrown, non-GMO, gluten-free wordsmith such as myself. If St. Peter is hip and modern enough, he can forgo all that fabled judgmental jazz at the gates of Heaven. He can simply email notifications. I don’t doubt he can find a way to spiritually transmit notifications to every soul. St. Peter, if you are metaphysically listening, may I make a suggestion? Develop an app that has emojis for paradisiacal salvation and for hellish damnation. Then you can save yourself all the time and trouble words take. (Purgatory? I’m not so sure about that one.) You won’t have to have all those interviews at the gate as depicted in cartoons.  

As for “power-saving mode,” don’t you wish we could do the same for ourselves? Don’t you wish that a few taps of your fingers would put you in a state of energy conservation? How handy it would be. Oh. Wait. We have that! My word for that power-saving mode is the English word “nap.” In Spanish, it’s “siesta.”

Why stop there? If we can invoke a personal power-saving mode, we should also be able to apply the same concept to endless varieties of human behavior. I salivate at the prospect of a limitless parade of modes beyond power-saving. A few brief examples include anger-saving, grief-saving, embarrassment-saving, trust-saving, and error-saving.

Logic dictates that this brave new world should stretch beyond the limits of conservation, as it were. Flip the opposite way. Power-enhancing, patience-enhancing, trust-enhancing, esteem-enhancing, virtue enhancing. The list goes on ad infinitum.

I freely admit the existence of logistical hurdles. If it’s not as easy as adjusting settings on your “digital device,” what are we left with? “Conscience” is the smart-aleck reply of the wise ones among us. My answer to that is: since our banishment from the Garden of Eden there has been a deep and wide chasm between what conscience ordains and what human beings actually do. So that’s the tricky part. Getting our behavior to be as automatic as an app on our phone or tablet is hugely problematic. That’s why we have drug and alcohol rehab centers; billions of dollars spent on psychoactive medications; and gazillions of dollars — and hours — invested in weight control and fitness. Not to be a shade too cynical, it’s also the reason we have corrections facilities that strain the credulity of the word “correction.”

As I said at the outset, my phone also declares without equivocation: “Your battery life has been extended.” Would that we could be as certain. Would that our fortunes were bound by such a simple and absolute algorithm.

“Your life has been extended” if you eat right, exercise frequently, wear a seatbelt, and signal before turning. (Extended for how long? one wonders.)

Text St. Peter. Ask him.

Get back to us on that.

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