Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blogging Elul day 10: See

How do we see ourselves, or each other?

This speech by Ashton Kutcher has been going crazy on the Internet in the last week. To have someone who's made his career selling a certain kind of image (and therefore carrying a certain kind of credibility) speak to a roomful (and world full) of screaming teenagers about identity, intelligence, hard work, opportunity, gratitude and how to shape one's own life is a pretty powerful tool for reflection, in the truest sense of the word. In a world where we present ourselves just so, with precisely cropped 'selfies' and lives edited for social media to just the good parts (well, just the entertaining parts), "Chris" poured some much-needed cold water on the values this generation are struggling to either integrate or resist.

It would be easy for us, in our world-weariness and cynicism, to dismiss this as pablum. And while it certainly doesn't pass muster as a High Holiday sermon (though it gets the mind running!) it does pass the smell test. The reality is that all of us today have a profound vision problem. Or to put it as my teacher, Rabbi Ruth Alpers put it: the three questions are always who we are, who is the other, and what are we about. Rosh HaShannah is a good time to ask those questions, to dig deeply, and reaffirm our relationships to each other and ourselves.

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