The Blackberry Event Horizon
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The ancient prophets described life as a movement from birth toward salvation. Einstein spoke of the space/time continuum. But the Urban Man rarely experiences time as a curvature of space or a journey toward heaven. No, like most, I usually see it as a To-Do list--a series of uncompleted tasks.
For example, this morning I'm nearing Boston on a red-eye with a gaggle of still-sleeping business travelers, and I'm preparing for the Blackberry Event Horizon. You know: that moment when the sun rises, the plane touches down, and everyone turns on their BlackBerries, Treos, and flip-phones. Just now our uncompleted tasks yet slumber. But soon our Jornadas will again chirp, our Bluetooth devices will again blink in our ears, we'll re-synch our in-boxes, and most importantly, we will each approach the next item on our electronic calendars.
After touchdown I've got to call Steve regarding invoice. Contact Dave regarding deadline. Ping bank regarding balance. Discuss cubscouts with nine-year-old. Rearrange Powerpoint. Download agreement...then call to disagree.
Check, check, and doublecheck.
Like everyone on the plane this morning, my list glows on unseen silicon chips, where priorities arise and wane like moons or planets, and my life bends around each task just as light bends around the gravitational weight of large celestial bodies.
Each day, as I complete a few more requirements, I expect the list to grow shorter—but of course, it never does. Once upon a time, random scraps of paper could get lost. But these days, like your sins, the little reminders chase you down: Call accounting regarding error. Complain to doctor regarding bill.
Like G-d Himself, your PDA forgets nothing.
Just now, as the plane swings inevitably around toward Logan, I fall back into a half-conscious quantum state where I consider the constantly accumulating backlog on the electronic devices of all my fellow passengers, rich or struggling, successful or unsuccessful: an expanding pulsar of uncompleted tasks ready to explode on arrival.
In Renaissance paintings they imagined heaven as a field of clouds where men and women strolled unhurried in flowing white robes. In commercials for fancy resorts they picture folks wearing white bathrobes by mirrored pools. And I think: surely, the Urban Man also aspires to unstructured time. In fact, in this groggy twilight at the end of a long flight, I am comforted by the idea that even if there is no heaven and no such thing as an endless South Sea vacation, then death will achieve the same happy result.
No, wait: scratch that thought. Please erase it from your podcast.
I meant to say that surely, my daily task database, which today resides in my Microsoft Outlook calendar, itself represents life. I mean, life is defined by structure and necessity, by work at hand. And as we more and more efficiently schedule our allotted days on earth, I am certain that we are learning to maximize our brief existence. In fact, just maybe, through the unending and expanding quality of our To-Do lists, now ready for emailing from generation to generation, we will achieve a kind of immortality.
And who's the Urban Man to complain about that?
At last, the stewardess flicks on the lights. My fellow passengers awake, zip open their window shades, and blink at a blood-orange sun lifting up over the Atlantic. There's a general noise of bags and briefcases as each doughty traveler gets out his list management device and prepares for the Blackberry Event Horizon, now arriving in approximately 12.9 minutes. Gently, we descend through the clouds. Five, four, three, two. There's a squeak of tires, the compartment fills with cheerful beeps and blinking lights, and lo, order returns to the time/space continuum.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada.
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