Why Stuff Works

Because who cares how?

Q: Why do cell phones work?

A: Cell phones. Those totally necessary evils of the modern world. If this were another website, I’d be asking how we ever survived without them. But, as usual, it’s the “why” that’s the interesting question. And so the questions are as follows: Why do cell phones work? Why can I hear someone on a cell phone who’s so far away? Why do 0s and 1s get turned into a familiar voice? Well I wondered myself, until I went and did a little digging. The answer may shock you.

Cell phones, as everyone knows, started out as totally cumbersome, ridiculously expensive black boxes that only the independently wealthy owned. In the mid 1990s, the introduction of smaller equipment and less expensive calling plans (minus those pesky overage costs) meant that everyone suddenly had a cell phone. Now, you can’t meet up with anyone in a crowded mall without them.

And that should raise some hairs on the back of your neck. We are totally dependent on cell phones for modern communication. I have no idea what most of my friends’ numbers are. If I lost my phone, I’d be totally unable to communicate with anyone I cared about. This, sadly, is very typical. Someone, somewhere, always benefits from our dependence. And the general American dependence on technology is of direct and vital interest to a solitary and secretive group whose roots spread deep into European and American history – Cistercian monks.

Cistercians are a particular order of Catholic monks. Founded at the abbey of Citeaux in France around the year 1100 CE, the Cistercian order is marked by The Rule of Benedict, a text that advocates great simplicity and scarcity in the day-to-day lives of the monks. Celebrated in its time as being more practical and rational than the previous monastic behavior (which included the horrific self-mutilation of the Flagellants of the 13th century) the Rule of Benedict sets out formal worship seven times during the day, and has sensible advice regarding the need for physical work as well as intense prayer. White Monks (so called because of the traditional white robes) have a deep commitment to solitude and the Opus Dei. During the late Middle Ages, Cistercians and their industries often became incredibly profitable from the industries of cattle, agriculture, and horse breeding, as well as the tithes and rents that they collected from tenants on their land.

As a result, over the centuries the tide between secular richness and pure devotion to a godly life has shifted. The corrupting influence of great richness has resulted in necessary changes and reactions to return to the simplicity of poverty and prayer that rests at the heart of Cistercian doctrine.

Somewhere along the way, around the 1700s during the founding of America, there was a deep sea change in the Cistercian organization. Led by Dom Augustin de Lestrange of France, the establishment of Cistercian monasteries in the New World had a darker side. Dom Augustin fled the Revolution of Europe with several other Trappist monks. He was pursued by agents of Napoleon, who sought his death for his religious and political beliefs. In bitterness with the immorality and filth of politics and economics, Dom Augustin devoted the remainder of his life to preaching against the dangers of the secular world, and his beliefs were passed on to all monks in the American orders.

As America’s culture developed, Cistercians have watched with great dismay. The entrepreneurship of the American culture is antithetical to the ideals of devotion and simplicity that the monks have always valued, and somewhere along the way, disdain for the modern world turned into a deep-seated wish to return all of Western civilization to a simpler time. So over the centuries, monasteries in America from Gethsemene, KY to Peosta, IA have kept a very close eye on the comings and goings of the American population, preparing for the one moment of glory that would result in an overthrow of the capitalistic American government.

After many decades of clever work and arbitration behind closed door with the messengers of God, including a key summit with several Thrones and Principalities, the monks arranged a deal with their Lord to create a mechanism to bring back civilization to a simpler time. Thus cell phones were created.

Why is that possible, you ask? Think about it – if you call a friend in California, there’s no physical way that you should be able to hear someone so far away. The speed of sound is simply not that fast. Cell towers just don’t cut it – you need some good old-fashioned Catholic prayer to get everything to gel. Not to mention the 1s and 0s that are apparently supposed to turn into a human voice? This is only slightly less believable than the idea that a man who over died 2000 years ago was raised from the dead to ascend into heaven. There’s a lot of belief to go around here these days.

The truth is, while appearing to be complicated instruments of engineering and modern technology, devoted followers of the Cistercian order have run the companies of Nextel, AT&T, and Verizon for many years, hiding the fact that these cell phones function off of the slight electromagnetic pulse present in the human body, and the body heat created from the ineffective chemical reactions of the human biology. With the considerate blessing of one of the higher Wheels, Cistercians were allowed to use a low-grade prayer power to straighten out a few glitches in the system, and cell phones became smaller and smaller as the years went on. With an additional support system of lower angels, text messages and picture messages were enabled.

Current fluctuations in the stock market and the strength of the technology sector have created a nearly ideal situation for a complete collapse of cell phones. The crash of the dot com businesses several years ago was a practice run for this upcoming massive outage. Some day soon, the Cistercians will enact their plan, pulling the plug on the prayer engine and stopping all communication.

Without cell phones, Americans will be forced to work harder in their daily lives, and will be prevented from useless chatter – hopefully turning them more toward the Rule of Silence and solitude as advocated from the beginning by St. Benedict. Furthermore, all the contact information lost will assure that they spend more time cultivating a deeper relationship with God. The Cistercians anticipate some reactionary antics from America’s Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish populations, as well as the many millions of agnostics. As a further demonstration of the glory of God, they’ve gotten a special Sector 12.302 permission from the Archangel Haniel to have a large meteor shower over the Eastern and Western coasts of American that spells out in English, Spanish, French, and Hindi (just in case), “God: The New Rollover Plan”.

So that’s why cell phones work, and why you should never ever assume that they always will.

all content and design copyright 2004 by Why Stuff Works
Site by Unobi Technologies, Inc.