This is the solemn 10 days of Awe, days of reflection that start at the Jewish New Year and end at the last blast of the Shofar at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur Fast.
Over and over, Jews on Yom Kippur in synagogues and gatherings throughout the world stand together and recite a litany of transgressions – in Hebrew alphabetical order – as they softly pat their heart with a fist. A sample of them go like this:
For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.
And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.
For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.
And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.
For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.
Perhaps the biggest transgression of our modern age is the sin of being distracted by a screen.
Even now, as I type this, I’m staring at a screen. I should be kissing my youngest good night. Or tending to another child’s homework.
Perhaps the biggest transgression of digital distraction is texting behind the wheel.
According to a recent article in Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, Rochestarians are some of the most distracted while driving bunch of people in the nation.
If I can confess: No, I don’t have a bluetooth. Yes, I make non-hands free calls when driving.
But only if I have a number programmed into my contacts.
And only if I have to call my husband during harried after school pick up times.
And even then, I place the phone on my dashboard or on my lap and use the speaker feature.
And sometimes, if I hear an old “new wave” song on the radio from the 1980’s, I click the info button, and just for a split second, peek and see who the artist was. Oh yes, OMD, I thought it was OMD.
OMG, I’m sorry I have been distracted.
But never, never will I answer a call when I’m driving, nor will I ever make or read a text.
You see it all the time. The distraction of couples looking at screens instead of looking at each other in the evening at the dinner table.
The distraction of a cell phone going off or someone texting even in houses of worship.
The other day I was walking home and saw a car lingering for a very long time at a stop sign.
Now, I was crossing the street and I needed to know what this driver would so so I could safely cross.
After about two minutes, when this driver was still at the stop sign, I crossed and peeked into the driver’s seat. There she was, oblivious to the world, texting on her smart phone.
I stared at her and she STILL didn’t notice me.
So oblivious this woman was behind the wheel, she didn’t even notice me creeping up behind her to snap this photo on my phone:
On this eve of Yom Kippur, I pledge to do this one change in myself, to be less distracted from my family.
In a nod to D&C Columnist Pam Sherman, I too recently lost my iThing. I just can’t find it. At first I felt lost without it. But, now, I feel liberated. Maybe I’ll find it someday. Or get a new one after saving up. But for now, I’m dealing with the sin of being forgetful and scatterbrained and repenting by trying to live a more mindful, in the moment life.
For those of you who are fasting, I hope you make it a meaningful one.
“No one is around, I’ve tried to get in touch with everyone I know and no one is calling or texting me back to hang out or talk or do anything!” I empathized with her angst. Hanging out just with the members of the family, all friendless and all, can be such a chore.
So, I asked her who she left messages with, who she called asking to make plans.
Her reply was, “Well, I didn’t exactly ask if anyone wanted to get together. I just texted ‘Hey’ to a bunch of people. No one has replied.”
Obviously, in the texting generation, “hey” seems to carry more weight and meaning than its three letters imply. It might simply mean “hello!” Or it might mean
“what are you doing?”
“do you want to get together?”
or, maybe, even
“I really like you.”
That is a lot to figure out for this upcoming generation of few words.
WordPress recently asked, as part of its daily blogging suggestions,
“Would you rather talk or text?”
For me, I’d rather talk. Or better yet, I would choose to write.
I do understand that texting can be convenient, such as when held up in a meeting and you need to get a succinct message out, like, “I’ll be late for dinner or daycare pickup.”
But, I would still prefer to hear the lilt, happiness or sadness in the voice of a friend or a loved one to better understand where they are coming from. Nothing beats a phone conversation when you want to get to the bottom of things quickly.
Sometimes, though, it’s the anticipation of that special letter that makes communication all the more sweeter. This week is National Letter Writing Week. That’s right. The kind of communication that requires a stamp. And ink from something called a pen.
When was the last time you received a love letter? When did you last wait days for that all-important message? Without that longing, songs like “Hey Mr. Postman” would never have been written.
If mere phone conversations and emails are dying away to curt, cryptic texts, then our culture may have seen our last generation of love letter writers.
I’m glad that technology did not arrive in time to deprive me of my letters. They are in a shoebox decorated with wrapping paper. Eighteen months worth of letters that document hopes and longings of my husband and I when we were just starting out. He was in California, I was in New York. He was in grad school, I was in an entry-level job I hated. Each of these handwritten letters — some short, some long — took days to cross the continent and we waited with anticipation for them to arrive in our mailboxes. And, by slowing down to write things out, we said things that we could never say to each other in a long distance phone conversation. Some of the dreams we put on paper, things we wouldn’t dare say when we were long distance dating, are a testament to our life today, our life with the three kids and the house. The house that holds a shoebox of old love letters.
In the digital age of bits and bytes, where will today’s young lovers store their earliest expressions of affection?