On this year’s annual “Boys Trip,” my sons-in-law all brought their cell phones. The usual explanations: business demands that required attention and availability in case of emergency. At least one was on the phone taking care of business in the bird sanctuaries, elk preserves, on the beaches, or driving through pristine Point Reyes wilderness to the oyster beds. I pontificated on and on about the price of these intrusions, until one of them said, “Will somebody muzzle that dinosaur.” If ranting about this is justification for stuffing and mounting me as an exhibit in the Museum of Primitive Man, so be it.

The cell phone was intended as a tool to liberate us, to let us get away and be free. Instead they are enslaving us because we take them everywhere. The cell phone has become our culture’s American Express card; nobody leaves home without it. People who carry them invariably respond to its ring, even if it’s only to see who the call is from. The musical seduction of your chosen tune is so irresistible that it always takes you away from wherever you happen to be in the moment (at lunch, watching your kid play volleyball, a walk in the woods, listening to the ocean waves, etc, etc.)

We live in a world of terror and color-coded emergencies. The cell phone has become elevated to an icon of personal safety. However, it is evolving into something that is destroying our ability to feel unafraid. In a culture of escalating paranoia, if you can’t reach somebody on his or her cell phone, you begin to imagine the worst.

Cell phones are also promoting dependency. They create the illusion that availability of others is indispensable for personal survival — that the only way to make an intelligent choice or avoid mistakes in an emergency is to have instantaneous access and consultation with somebody else. Kids can’t change a tire anymore, and they don’t have to, because help is only a phone call away.

The only way we learn to survive on life’s journey is by facing our fears without interruption. The more available we make ourselves, the more it steals our freedom. Do not let the ordinary world intrude upon our sacred time and spaces. Get away to places where the spirit soars and you can hear soul music on something other than a cell phone.