a glimpse into the cosmos

September 3rd, 2019

A couple of weeks ago my phone died. I didn’t even know it was dying because I don’t use my phone for much. One day, I noticed that I got a text about eight hours after it was sent. A day or so later I figured out the phone wasn’t holding a charge, and soon after, it wouldn’t turn on.

I was on vacation with the only people I typically hear from via text, so I wasn’t too bummed. Hopefully we could revert to spoken word for an awkward interim, despite the time-suck of talking face to face.

When we got home, my husband went to the phone store to get my little friend replaced. He came back saying that the LG Cosmos is not in stock at the Verizon store and I might have to upgrade. We both knew this reckoning would come. To those few who know me in real life, I’ve been a cellphone embarrassment for 13 years, a creaking relic of the telephonic past. Nevertheless, I persist.

By now you probably know my peculiar aversion to smartphones and everything they cost us personally, socially, intellectually, spiritually, financially blah blah blah here she goes again. Now some influencers in Silicon Valley, admittedly just a few very rich outliers, are saying this too.

There’s a movement underway called “ethical tech,” which may not be a movement per se, but just a digital detox workshop. At any rate, some people who have scored megabucks as part of Big Tech are realizing that their fancy ideas didn’t make the world a better place. This happens whenever they look up from their phones and see a whole universe of people looking into theirs, subsumed, addicted and inert. They call this outcome “human downgrading” and they feel bad about it.

My husband went on Amazon and found a new battery for the phone and when I switched it out, the phone worked again. It cost $8.88 with free shipping. I didn’t have to upgrade after all and I felt hugely good about it.

I was afraid to see the dozens of messages I’d missed during my days without the Cosmos, but there was only one. It was a text my husband had sent a week earlier from the grocery store. The sight of it made me wonder: in the unforeseeable world beyond ours, would intelligent beings puzzle over the content of advanced communication in the digital age, the way we study hieroglyphics and cave paintings?

Ralph’s is out of roasted chicken so I’m going to Whole Foods.


Photo by v2osk on Unsplash


  1. We found a wilderness cabin that had no ‘connectivity’ and for years enjoyed true connection with one another and nature. We would leave refreshed and feeling full-really knowing to whom and what we belonged. Then one year as we arrived at the beloved cabin we were met with the news that it was equipped with the latest and greatest Internet/wireless technology and like that damn fruit on the first tree, the temptation was too much. I still feel the grief of that loss.

    Comment by MJ — September 4, 2019 @ 4:03 am

  2. Generally, texts seem less intrusive. I like your point about them being faster.

    Comment by Bill — September 4, 2019 @ 8:28 am

  3. “A cellphone embarrassment”, so funny! I love watching how long it takes you to send a text:) Thank you as always for your lessons. Love you.

    Comment by Kirsten — September 5, 2019 @ 5:02 am

  4. We condense time to the degree that we lose all flexibility in that respect. Phones are like walking aids, but then for time. I have a hard time with parents who feel they have to be in touch with their child within seconds, rather than be able to wait till they come home and trust them to come home.
    When I was in college a woman in my dorm would scold me for talking on the phone with my family for an hour every now and then (this was when we had one phone collectively) because she demanded for the phone to be available at all times for people who needed to get in touch with her. She failed to recognize her own hour long conversations with her family. I think of her now and then, she probably owns three phones or something like that by now.

    Comment by Sim — September 6, 2019 @ 1:41 am

  5. Lots of things are worth noticing. A few things really need our attention. Where do you find all the candidates’ most current information? Twitter. You have had considerable digital success yourself. Loved your husband’s retrieved text. You don’t seem to respond to comments very much. Call me. 713-582-6809!

    Comment by Larry Misiak — September 6, 2019 @ 5:54 am

  6. You’ve really exposed something here, Larry. What is communication? It appears to be communication between two or more people. But pay close attention and you can see that it is entirely communication with oneself. In that sense, when is it a response and when is it just further self-involvement? We have a practice instruction that clarifies the activity of the awakened mind: simply take care of what appears in front of you. Myriad things appear in front of us, but for some, it is always one thing: their phone. A destructive choice, I’d say, but what are they destroying? We have to see this for ourselves.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — September 6, 2019 @ 6:28 am

  7. So good to hear from you. Thank you for your response. Instructive as I would expect. Your writing is superb. Your thinking is clearly, always, within the confines of your Zen beliefs. It’s good communication. We’ve moved into a retirement community and I’ve left the little Japanese Garden I created behind. From the country to the city. Lots of trade offs. The new owner extended the back porch deck over it. Rules in our current community prohibit such things, small yards, limited space. But we meditate often, Helen in one room, me in another. Still talk about wanting to see your garden. Have a special cousin in Huntington Beach I loved to see! Best wishes and thanks for giving so much to so many!

    Comment by Larry Misiak — September 6, 2019 @ 11:08 am

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