A few weeks’ back, HERE, two of Sasson’s regular writers, Ben Ackerman and Esther Cameron, were having an interesting discussion in the comments section on how to pull people out of the apathy and ‘aloneness’ that is so common in 2018, and try to weld us all back into some sort of cohesive unit again.
Dare I say it, a community of sorts.
I speak the word softly, because like most people these days, the ideas of actually interacting with a bunch of real people, of actually being part of something beyond the dalet amot of my computer screen is pretty scary.
Because most people are crazy today.
And I of course include myself in that awful generalization of mankind.
I also bought into the idea that txts could replace hugs, that email could take the place of real conversations, and that writing a blog could obviate the need to actually interact with real-life people, in the flesh.
But recently, God showed me that internet communities are ersatz kehillas, at most. They have the appearance of the real deal; they have some of the taste; but they have none of the real throb or pleasure of being in touch with a person whose name you actually know, and whose face cannot be obscured behind an emoji.
Baruch Hashem, the frum community always had Shabbos inoculating it against the worst excesses of replacing people with internet avatars and email addresses and Facebook friends. But even in our communities, the opportunities for interacting with real people have diminished, as more and more of us have become overwhelmed by the challenges of modern life.
It’s so much easier to surf someone else’s monologue online than to actually ask ‘how are you doing?’ – and really want to hear the reply.
But internet connection, however widespread, is superficial and ersatz. It has the appearance of being part of something, but none of the actual enjoyment of belonging. Talk is so cheap on the internet. People post up their heart and soul, their secret dreams, their worst nightmares – and it all passes by with a wink of the eye, a nod of the head, or a thumbs up (or down…).
For this, I was created?
For this, I write?
I want a real conversation, a real sense of connecting, of doing something meaningful, of finding fellow travelers who are also interested in ‘the other’, and aren’t just trying to promote their latest book or paid services for authors.
Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with wanting people to read your words, or to reward your writing, but pleeze, there comes a point where the self-publicising monologue has to end. Sure, If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? But if I’m only for myself (and my own creative endeavors….) than what am I? And if not now, then when?
And this last question, is seems to me, can be the most challenging of all. Because it takes courage to try to step out from behind the dalet amot of my screen, and to try to engage with real, live human beings again.
I want to do it. I want to be able to write a poem, as Esther suggests, saying ‘Count me in’. I want to be able to live by those words, and to find others holding ‘a thread of common destiny’ – other orthodox Jewish writers who write to make a difference in the world; who write as an expression of their soul’s higher purpose; who write to put a smile on God’s face.
But practically, how do I do it? How can we do it, when everyone is crazy in 2018 and trapped behind their screen?
I don’t know.
But in the meantime, I keep coming back to the last verse of Esther’s poem:
We say the mind, once whole, can mend the world.
To mend the mind, that is the task we set.
How many years? How many lives? We do not know;
but each shall bring a thread.
I’m here on Sasson with my thread.
I guess I’m hoping that more people will show up with theirs, too, and that together, God will show us all how to weave ourselves back together into a community again, with one heart and one mind.
And that somehow or other, once that’s done, the world will finally be fixed, and Moshiach will come with his thread of peace, his thread of kindness, and complete the tapestry.