Americans may seem to value convenience over everything else, especially in a world that’s inescapably technological. This does not mean, however, we have somehow lost touch with more sober values. In fact, if there is to be a marketable competitor to the I-Pad, it’s one that will appeal to our core, rather than offering us a way to translate our speech into parsletongue for the next Harry Potter convention.
For those who are traveling, and not on Hajj, there’s an app that will point out the direction to Mecca. It’s a kind of moral compass for those whose pilgrimages take them more often to the grocery store, or to have the oil in their car changed. With auditory reminders, bowing down in the right direction at the right time has never been easier.
Likewise, there’s an app that grants absolution to busy Catholics. When going to church doesn’t fit in your schedule, especially going a full half hour before mass begins, the app will listen, occasionally hemming and hawing as you enumerate your sins. A special feature on the app, especially if you’ve been using the same device to look at pornography, will ask, “Is there anything else?” until your sense of guilt triumphs. At present, the main flaw is that the only penance the app suggests involves repetition of the Hail Mary in multiples of five. “We didn’t think people would respond if we asked them to say a decade of the rosary,” says designer John O’Toole. “I mean, who has a rosary anymore? But we need to find a way to move past the notion that Catholicism is more than just the right words repeated”
Protestant users of the I-Pad and competing devices do not require an app, as they simultaneously have the grace of ownership and faith strong enough to withstand the pitfalls of technology.
Technophiles who are not burdened with any sense of religion will be happy to know that their lives are no less valuable to innovators. In fact, a recent app points to life itself as the greatest value. If your left arm begins to tingle or go numb, remove the buds from your ears and press them firmly and strategically to your bare chest. Once the app has a chance to charge, the push of a single button will jolt your heart into a regular rhythm. While it takes nearly a minute before the app can provide further defibrillation, when you switch back to your music you’ll find the 1976 hit Magic Man has acquired new personal meaning. Caution: this device has not been tested for its efficacy on pets.
The scope of these new apps will surely inspire cheaper, ersatz versions, which could ensnare less discerning consumers. Noted social critic Peter Elohim offers this cautionary note: “If you’re going to let yourself lapse, whether that’s a religious artery or a real one, you’ll want the best possible coverage.”
Matt Kolbet teaches and writes near Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Clockwise Cat, Defenestration and most recently in Gutter Eloquence and The Rufous City Review.