catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 19 :: 2012.10.26 — 2012.11.08


Losing a cell phone, losing perspective

As I write this, I’ve misplaced my cell phone. Again. And I’m super annoyed about it even though I know it’s ridiculous to be in a bad mood on account of a stupid phone and my absent-mindedness. It’s even more ridiculous because I’m fairly certain it’s not entirely lost, just inaccessible. But it still doesn’t change my being annoyed.

My annoyance is disproportionate to the consequences of it actually being lost. If so, it simply means that within two days, I’ll go to a store a ten-minute walk from my house, cancel the previous phone card, and buy a new card and a new phone. It will cost me less than half an hour and about 10 Euros. Even if someone has “borrowed” it to make free calls, the phone company or my insurance will probably cover it.

In a situation like this, I am surrounded by convenience and assurance that things will be fine. I can even assume that if someone does find my phone, they’ll call the last number and try to bring it back to me. Such is the world I live in: a world of privilege. It is the privilege of convenience, of trusting others and having monetary reserves. There’s freedom to be absent-minded about the little things, as the consequences are limited. My loss of a cell phone, instead of being a large inconvenience, is more of an excuse for my husband to tease me or for others to commiserate about when the same happened to them. Next week, life will continue like normal, with my old phone or with a new one.

I can try to explain my overreaction as the result of having lived through harder times when it would have been overwhelming to have someone use my phone to make expensive calls. However, I have always had friends and family who could help me out and have always lived in a society in which I could freely borrow and pay later. I can’t entirely grasp what the real consequences are for someone living in a completely different social reality than me — I only know that my situation is remarkably easier than many.

Nonetheless, recognizing that it’s silly to be annoyed about a cell phone doesn’t make my feeling go away. I don’t know how to worry about the big things — having enough food to eat, being able to get an education, personal safety, religious freedom, and so on — as these are all things I have always been able to take for granted. Instead, I am overwhelmed about my inability to do much to help those in places where such worries are constant and real. For me, the pressures and worries are different: productivity, availability, self-image and usefulness are just some of the things that have become a central focus of life. A lost phone, simple problem that it might be, can be seen as part of that bigger picture. Being frustrated with myself or sensing that my loss lets others down are real feelings, regardless of whether this actually reflects reality, and these feelings ought to be recognized and honored.

In the midst of the clamoring of the world around me — full of messages that I should be more perfect, more rich, more productive — it is helpful to realize that my problems are sometimes merely first world problems, irrelevant to those around the world struggling with basic human needs and rights. At the same time, the feelings produced by the problems are an honest reflection of the challenge of living in a society in which it is often easier to lose perspective than it is to misplace our cell phones.

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