Friday, March 26, 2010

Silence in the Midst of Noise

There are those who don't seem to be looking forward to Yom Tov, in particular our observance chutz l'aaretz of that extra day. The latest posting on Bad4 speaks of "enforced conversation," of sitting down to too many meals together. I would refer those people to my posting this week on Making Memories.

But there is another reason why some people find the days of Yom Tov so hard to bear, so interminable, and that is the sudden and complete divorce from the electronic toys which drive our lives on a daily basis. What is really bothering these people, although few will admit it, is the absence of noise. These people suffer plenty over Shabbos; a two-day yom tov seems unbearable.

Watch men on a Shabbos who usually have their cell phones/blackberries/ipods attached to their belts. They are constantly touching where these items should be and aren't. For some it's as if one of the body's appendages had been suddenly amputated. Suddenly people are being forced to do without their links to the virtual world and being forced to communicate the old fashioned way: face to face using their voices unmodulated by electronic devices. No 140 character twitter responses are available. There's no "oops, got to go" on a cell phone when a conversation starts getting out of the general and into specifics people don't want to deal with or face.

Real conversation requires involvement, requires paying attention for longer than a 10-second text message, requires engagement and participation. Real conversation, face-to-face, requires thinking about what is going on. It seems that the more you are involved with your electronic gadgetry on a daily basis, the more you "communicate" electronically, the less you value "enforced," forced or even spontaneous conversation in the real world. Real conversation requires minding your Ps and Qs, adhering to social rules, thinking of others and exercising your vocal cords for longer than a few minutes at a time.

Talking with each other instead of at each other is becoming a lost art for many, and an undesirable occurrence. It may well be why some people also find dating so stressful. Imagine, being "locked" together for two hours with nothing to do but talk directly to each other. How old fashioned, how passe, how backwards.

Me? I welcome the silence of all that gadgetry. No pings and beeps and vibrations trying to rule my living moments. I welcome the family sitting down together, really together, and speaking with each other, not at each other. So yes, I don't mind that extra day of yom tov at all. It confers the blessing of silence of the electronic slave masters. It allows me to thumb my nose at those gadgets that believe that they rule me, not the reverse. And yes, when we say "Avodim Ha'yenu" it takes on an extra meaning--no gadgets at the table (ever see a group of people in a restaurant? At least half of them are texting instead of participating in a conversation with those present) and for these two days we are "free men."


Sima said...

True about the gadgetry, but ProfK, consider the single. For him/her, sitting -- again -- at someone else's seder, at the table of someone else's family, for the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh year in succession, Yom Tov can be decidedly torture.

Anonymous said...

Good point Sima. It's not just the single. It's the elderly person without tons of (or any) children/grandchildren or children/grandchildren with whom they are close. For those with close family and friends with whom they have good relationships, holidays are the best of times. For those without, they are the worst of times.

Anonymous said...

It's fascinating that you say the gadgets believe they rule you. Ascribing intent to a gadget?

The healthiest thing is not talking to people only because you aren't allowed to text for a few days, but instead, learning how to resist the cell phones and blackberries when you are with people.

JS said...

Anyone who really is tethered to their gadgets for work reasons, who is expected to check their blackberry regularly and drop everything to respond to a query welcomes shabbat and yom tov as a respite from the noise. If it weren't from shabbat or yom tov many people would be forced to work 7 days a week and never get a break. It's wonderful being able to tell co-workers, legitimately, sorry I won't be available.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments from someone who blogs to get things off of her chest and sometimes to be able to rant a bit anonymously :)

I don't think its the lack of gadgets that makes a two day holiday difficult for some people. Some people need physical activity and fresh air and sitting in shul for 3 or 4 hours and sitting at a 4-6 hour seder can make those types antsy.

Lion of Zion said...

i find that people who glorify the two-day chag generally have never experienced a one-day chag.

but the truth is at this point if
you get rid of shul and the seder, i'll celebrate all 8 days as chag.

Anonymous said...

If any Jew wants a quick and simple devar Torah to recite at the Shabbat table, then go to:

NonymousG said...

I changed my blog from to , please could you amend your link?

Btw as a guy I can honestly say that without my gadgets I feel helpless on Shabbos and Yom Tov :(