My cell—my mobile, my handy, no, my self-phone

“I lost my phone last summer, and I didn’t replace it for six weeks, I took a vacation from myself—from my self,” comedian-philosopher Bill Murray said this week in an NPR interview. “I only needed to borrow a phone three times to make a call. It was a true vacation—I was free to do what I want.”

“A vacation from my self,” he called it. Profound observation. He is humorously, but pointedly, naming how the cell-phone becomes a self-phone, and extension of self, an expansion of ego, a medium for constant management of one’s world, a means of warning of the foreseen, of warding off the unforeseen events of life.

“A self-phone , texting, calling, accepting calls, alerting one to news, providing time, weather, traffic, directions, email, maps, photos, video records, aps of all sorts, offers a small taste of being God-like, It offers me my tiny taste of omniscience (I am in the know, now, instant knowledge) and omnipotence (I can control, confront, counteract whatever comes). My self extends its boundaries to embrace my personal and a significant part of the larger world.

And at the center, there, in my hand, my remote control. Like Chauncey Gardener in Peter Sellers’ Being There, are you old enough to remember the movie?

At dinner out a few nights ago, other, indeed every other, table has people on their phones. Dating couples texting the person they would rather talk with right now, senior citizens smiling into their separate horizons—alias verizons—while their fish and chips grow cold.

Yesterday I witnessed the panic of a grown man when he has misplaced his self-phone—everything stops, the mad search begins, others are enlisted to dial his number to provide a tell-tail ring, then we retrace the last stops and make calls for him, at last it is located and the world is back in control.

“That phone has my whole life in it,” people explain. “My whole life.”

Calling Bill Murray. Come in Bill Murray.

Help us with laughter—laughter may be the only thing that can set us free from  obsession with our selves.

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