Last night at the Yeshiva University Museum in the gallery of their new exhibit, Fields of Dreams: Living Shmita in the Modern World, we followed Ari Bergmann on a journey through the history of how Shmita as an idea has wrestled with Shmita as a real world practice. We were surrounded by actual relics and objects of that history – handwritten letters from Rabbi Kouk and Instagram photos from some of Israel’s top artists were particularly meaningful to me. But, more than a “history lesson,” we heard the compelling possibilities of what the Shmita could look like in just 7 years.
The journey led us right back home as Amichai spoke of how our digital lives today are the “fields” of our ancestors. More and more, we invest our lives in a virtually connected world only to become more disconnected. Face to face conversation is a slow and messy process but one that is the richest. Most of how we communicate is with our body and tone, less about the words we choose. This type of conversation is a slow and meaningful journey we take together. The digital interactions are quick, precise and edited.
Sherry Turkle said, “We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.” It may not seem like we are hurting ourselves, but we are losing the true essences of friendship by, as Amichai said, turning out friends into data and digital commodities. Genuine connection is being lost to online social utility. How many of us look at the number of friends we have? Do we share our real self or is it the prettied up version of our lives with only the highlight reel of happiness and not the grittiness of the hurt and struggle and vulnerability we all experience?
I know I am victim to the social media status quo. I share the good, filter the bad and give a more polished version of myself. That is what the digital world has come to expect from us and what we have become the most comfortable with. And yet, is cutting out this difficult but important part of our self worth it? Something is lost, not only for us but for those connections of data we share. Is there room for our entire self in this gigantic digital experience?
I am challenging myself (and maybe even you too!) to bring more of who we are to our digital lives. It’s complicated, it’s messy…and it is absolutely beautiful!
– Jason Erick Taylor