Sunday, September 20, 2015

Do You Rule Your Devices or Do They Rule You?

I’m not highly religious, but I try to attend synagogue during the Jewish “high” holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It’s a combination of guilt, lifelong habit and trying to set a good example for my half-Jewish sons that drives me to show up every year.
Do I enjoy attending services? Not really. Even though our temple is architecturally striking and the choir is first-rate, the timing of the Holidays always seems inconvenient. While my schedule blows apart in the secular world, time slows to a crawl in the sanctuary as we await instructions to rise-chant-sit-rise again-chant-and-sit, half a dozen times over a two-hour period before more lengthy passages of Hebrew ensue.
My watch seems frozen in time. The clouds filling the overhead skylights seem not to move. And it always feels like two pages backward for every page forward as we slog our way through the prayer brook (in the Hebrew tradition of right to left). How could time move so slowly in this fast paced world?

As is probably the case in your house of worship, cell phones and mobile devices are forbidden. My sons, like most of the congregants under the age of 80 start to get physically ill as they Jones for a little hit of electronic stimulation to make the time pass. Like most congregants, they don’t want to miss a critical tweet, post or text from the rest of the “gentile” world that’s enjoying a day off from school or a slow day at work.

But I’ve grown to like the technology deprivation tank most people call the synagogue. First of all, it’s the only time of the year in which I don’t feel like I’m racing the clock 24/7, feeling hopelessly behind schedule. It’s also great to go 120 straight minutes without having to react to a message, make a decision or put out a fire. I do some of my best thinking in the sanctuary, too. It may not be about my faith, or atoning for my sins or communicating better with the spouse and family….but some pretty good ideas have come out of my High Holiday sits. For more on this topic see our recent post I Do My Best Thinking in a (MRI) Tube.

Finally the Shofar blasts. The congregation sings Adon Olam, we shake hands with those in neighboring seats and we’re “released” from the temple. I have a renewed sense of energy and fulfillment. I wish I could attribute it to reconnecting with my faith and the inspiring chants and life lessons. Truth be told, it’s more about getting the battery recharged.

I sense I’m not the only one who feels that way. Our rabbi is a superb orator with a keen sense of humor and timing. He knows most of us are not regulars at the temple and he often finds a way to connect with us. Last week, while we were anticipating a moving sermon about the state of Israel, tensions in the Middle East or how to our young people more involved in the temple he threw us a curve ball and talked about the tyranny of technology. He also told us about the annual National Unplug Day in early March which is all about slowing down our lives in an increasingly unplugged world and taking a Sabbath from the wired world.

Rabbi proudly wears an Apple watch, but he showed us how technology has blurred the line between work and family time. Technology has unchained us from our desks and cubicles, so we can get work down anywhere we happen to be any time of the day. By the same token, it has OBLIGATED us to get work done 24/7/365 wherever we happen to be at any time of the day. There are no more boundaries between work and family life the rabbi lamented and he also said that thanks to technology, our communication with each other has become too superficial. Electronic communication is more convenient, sure, but us the rabbi pointed out—sending a quick text or email, takes a lot less effort and emotional commitment than making a phone call, writing a litter or heaven forbid, seeing each other face-to-face.

We want to meet you in person

To that end, we’re doing our best to meet each and every one of your in person, and we had some great meals and meetings over the best month with clients in the Bay Area, Boston, Portland Maine and New York City. Next step is Denver.

Yom Kippur starts tomorrow night. Most years I do try to fast for 24 hours (with moderate success) but I’ve been experimenting with a 24 hour technology fast every weekend since last fall—usually from mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday. I recommend you try it some time, regardless of your faith.

Have a great week and a wonderful new year. Get unplugged, call your mother and start living life.

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


TAGS: Tyranny of technology, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, best thinking in unlikely places

No comments: