Thursday, February 7, 2008
There is something which I would have liked to write in this panel a while ago, but didn't get around to, and that is the book "Proust and the Squid" by Maryanne Wolf .
It's subject is a subject which is hard to believe is so overlooked; todays transition from reading words on paper as our main way of taking in information to a more digitalized method. Definitely one of the most important subjects our generation has to face, but does not care enough about to discuss! This is a transition the likes of which hasn't happened since the transition from the spoken word to writing. And this is a problem which also fundamentaly affects orthodox judaism.
It is hard to properly describe how advanced our systems of reading really are, and how far we've come, and how much (as opposed to the view of Socrates) it has positively affected our minds. It is extremely developed compared to the original forms of writing. But today the digital technology available to us has the potential to actually make our brains devolve in the long run! Any information acquired through demonstration, and not through reading will only make us lees intelligent. Most of the things available on the digital media are not educational anyway.
All I can say quickly and offhand here is that we must decide how much we really want the digital media surrounding us to affect our minds. My personal opinion is that a seldom documentary can be useful (in addition to reading) to clarify a subject (though only after attempting to understand through reading).
In yeshivas there is a very strong effort not to 'give in' in regards to reading and understanding. I just read recently that one of the explanations of the Mishna in the second chapter of Avot; "אל תאמר דבר שאי אפשר לשמוע שסופו להשמע" as meaning "don't say that something cannot be understood, if it CAN be understood (with enough diligence). It's really better to struggle through a passage in the Talmud then to rush to some explanation or translation (קודם ראשי ואחר כך רש"י- בפיהם של חכמי מרוקו).
In regards to recorded Drama, especially when some of the content if of questionable ethicallity has been a big question. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish approach is generally that it is all negative. While the liberal-orthodox and Evangelical Christians for example try to filter out the 'bad' stuff. More research is necessary.