Solving Life’s Dilemmas One App at a Time

Have you seen the new commercial for the iPhone? The commercial was made to showcase the new feature, Shazam, that allows users to find the name of the artist and/or song that’s been escaping them. So now, for those of you who have the iPhone, you no longer have to wait until you get to a computer, or find a friend that can help, or get lucky enough to hear the song introduced on the radio. If you have the iPhone, Shazam can release you from such anxiety. The commercial ends, proudly, by boasting of the iPhone, “… Solving life’s dilemmas one app at a time.”

I’m not bashing the iPhone. Far from it. I wish I had one. But I saw this commercial a couple of times before it hit me that, although certainly tongue and cheek, the guys at Apple have captured a piece of Americana-psyche. (And admittedly, what bothers me most is that it’s true. How many times have I become totally distracted while trying to remember the name of a movie, or an actor, or a song.) They have also identified one of THE problems that plague us. That is, we are not a serious people.

I guess it’s true that we’ve always been disposed to absent-minded pursuits. It would seem naive to think that we’ve only recently become distraction-obsessive. What apps like Shazam have done is open the flood gates to the trivial and mundane. So now it’s almost constantly—and if iPhone has any say in it, completely—available. So now, disciplines like evangelism, meditation, Scripture memory, relationship, and prayer can be put on permanent hold by the un-disciplined. Dilemmas like the lost, the brokenhearted, the addicted, and the poor are put on a list, with equal footing, that includes “Who sings this?” and “Wasn’t that the guy in Dawson Creek?” and “What else has Daniel Craig been in?”

For so many, these subtle marketing messages are so potent. It reminds me of a funny moment in a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. novel—“So who right, professor?” For so many of us, “life’s dilemmas” has become the stuff of trivial substance that invites passivity and abdication.  But life—real life—is not about the struggle to know who sings “Unwritten.” Even at the risk of hyperbole, the message of this commercial is a dangerous one for a generation already struggling with what is being referred to as “extended adolescence.” No, the stakes are much higher. The ammo is live. The bullets are real. Knowing who sings “Unwritten” doesn’t help in these matters of weight.

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