On Telemarketers and the Origin of Sin

I’ve gotten several telemarketer calls lately. I should just hang up. I know I should. Instead, my whole world turns red, my stomach churns, my neocortex shuts down, my lizard brain takes ascendance. I should just hang up. I know I should. I should be courteous. I know I should. But I don’t. I experience a feeling that can only be described with the words, “How dare you?” How dare you infringe on my privacy? How dare you interrupt my day? How dare you use my telephone to abuse me in this way? You know, spam email doesn’t bother me at all. Junk snail mail doesn’t bother me at all. Send that all you want. I’ll either be mildly amused or just ignore it. But my telephone? How dare you? Leave me alone, you wretched boil-popper, you human paraquat!

Today I received one of these calls on my cell phone. My cell phone! Cell phones are supposed to be exempt from this satanic ritual. Cell phones are supposed to be imbued with beatific favor, a holy dispensation freeing them from the millennium of purgatory that is unsolicited calls. Landlines have no such favor, and must make penance to be added to the Book of Life, also known as the Do Not Call list. But cell phones are immune. They are like children before the age of reason, cherubic souls whose original sin has not yet set in. My misunderstanding of Catholic dogma is astounding. Blame the invalid neocortex. Blame the Lutheranism in my bones. (Just today I heard a good one. What’s a Lutheran? A Catholic who failed Latin.) Yet I’m going to push the metaphor further.

I think the problem is smart phones. Let us open the Holy Book for evidence of my theory. The book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were once happy, sinless, innocent folk living on God’s back forty, frolicking and picnicking. (Wait…maybe it was the Crash Test Dummies who reported the picnic. Well, anyway, they were happy.) The problem came when they achieved self-awareness. When they sat up in bed one morning, and said, “I’m me.” (No, wait…that actually happened to me. It’s my earliest memory. Remarkably, it’s also the earliest memory of a dear friend of mine. I still can’t get over how weird that is.) According to scripture, our mutual ancestors made the mistake of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then everything went downhill: they developed anxiety, fear, shame, eviction, and after many generations the Twilight books and movies. (Seriously, vampires that glitter in sunlight? How are they vampires? Could you not think of a new word for these creatures you invented?)

Sorry, back to smart phones. Wait, I’m not there yet. I’m still in Genesis. I am convinced that the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve is true. Not in a historical, literal way. That’s just silly. Sorry, fundamentalists, but ancient Eastern writing was never meant to be read that way. No, but I think it’s a sublime explanation for why humans suffer in a particular way no other animals do. Why we have angst. It’s because we have knowledge. We have sampled of that tree of knowledge, and in doing so, we now understand our own mortality. We comprehend our own existence. We stare in the face of death, terrified of the skull staring back at us, the skull we recognize as our own. A long time ago, somewhere in the lineage of Homo sapiens or Homo erectus or Homo whatever, the first self-aware proto-human woke up and said, “I’m me.” And everything in our shared human history has been footnotes to that moment. And that was the first moment when a creature could actively and consciously do something against the will of God. The first moment when a creature could self-reflectively choose. The first moment when a creature knew what it meant to be all alone in the night. This is what the Fall means to me. The very possibility of sin (turning away from God) doesn’t exist until the evolution of self-awareness. Rocks can’t sin. Trees can’t sin. Snails can’t sin. Can dogs? Cats? Whales? Well, that depends on whether they’re self-aware or not. And I am not going to stir up that pot.

But it’s a particular kind of knowledge, reflective self-awareness, that has lost humans (and perhaps others) paradise. It doesn’t mean we’ve been punished, but rather that, quite literally, ignorance was bliss. We longer have that ignorance. Paradise lost. Bliss evaporated.

Now watch these acrobatics. Our pre-human ancestors, whom I will call “flip-humans” (hey, I said acrobatics, and also, you’ll see where I’m going with it) were innocent and ignorant, blissful and sinless, possessing the halo of the unaware. (Kind of like we all do before what I will call the age of reflective reason, the moment when we as individuals become self-aware.) But then the Apple arrived on the scene, the fruit of the tree of…well, let’s just say the Apple. And thanks to the Apple, humans began to recognize their own self, their own “I.” They became attached to this I, and became iHumans. And all at once, they were different. They had the form of humans, but were different. If they had developed the Greek language, they would call humans anthropoi, and hence might think of their new identities as anthropoid, having the form of anthropoi. Maybe they’d even nickname themselves Android. They (…also…) became (…sprach…) smart humans (…ZARATHUSTRA!).

Of course, they weren’t the only ones. Those poor lamented Neandertals. They may have been our betters in some ways. But they lost the race. The simple homes they built, outfitted with the nicest (ahem) Windows, just couldn’t withstand the huff and puff of the big bad app war.

The alchemists and occultists have a motto: As above, so below. (I think they do, anyway. I got this information from a Doctor Who fan. I guess I could fact-check it. Nah. This guy knows his Kaled from his Thal. I trust him.) As with humans, so with phones. When flip-phones became smart phones, they lost their innocence, they lost their immunity from the arrows of hell itself. And they began to receive the calls of telemarketers.

Oh yeah. That’s what this was all about. Telemarketers. And how angry they make me. Stupid telemarketers. Aren’t they aware of what they’re doing? Maybe next time I’ll just hang up.

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