which is the medium? which is the message?

I was very curious about a post from CoCreate, titled “Cyber-Seniors” Showcases the Creative Potential of the Over-65 Set.

Here’s the punchline of the article:

At first glance, the Cyber-Seniors documentary (which is currently touring Canada and the U.S.), seems like an amusing take on the generation gap. In fact, it highlights an overlooked creative population. At worst, we see the elderly as outmoded; at best we call their technological ignorance cute. Why not give them some practical tools to communicate and create. Years from now, when we’re perceived as old and out of touch, won’t we be eager for the same?

Yes, we will. As I am closing in on that age of 65, I take this very personally. Of course, all of the people that they are featuring are as old as my father. And I spend a lot of time (thankfully that I can, in all the meanings) trying to help my father travel the internet. In fact, I was driven to look at the article because of all the time that I spend trying to help my father, who gets frustrated when things disappear into cyberspace and he can’t put his finger on them. I have to try very very hard to honor him by not laughing. But still, I am quite bothered by how they are treating these seniors. They are not honoring them but exploiting them. Are they teaching them anything or using them?

We have a case where there are two media, text and video, and they contradict. Which one will be seen? Which one will be the message?

And because I am such a strong believer in Marshall McLuhan and his message, I will not show you anything from this page. If you want to see it, you have to go do the work yourself. I’m believing in the word here.

I love that this organization was started by teenagers. That also goes a long way in understanding how the videos are edited. I had high hopes for the exercise video, but then it goes sour, too, with degrading music and effects. I don’t think that I’m being an old fuddy-duddy about it, although I can imagine that the seniors in these videos were convinced not to be. Ugh. Even thinking that the word fuddy-duddy could pertain to me makes me shudder.

But shudder I must, it seems.

There are so many things in the world today that make me sick. And most of them seem to be around how people treat others, without any honor, but only with their own selfish limitations. And I’m extremely aware of how difficult it is to get people to change. Or even to acknowledge their foibles. And since they can’t acknowledge that they perhaps are not seeing things as clearly as they could because they’re not giving anyone the benefit of any doubt (wait–they will give themselves the benefit, but no one else), then what are we left with?

I was thinking of calling this post “this is how we honor the elderly??” originally. In preparation for that, I Googled “Vehadarta Pnei Zaken“.

Oh, look! I can make a Quozio with it. Let that be my message.

And just as an aside but that actually proves my point, did you know that George Clooney is a resident or visitor (it’s not clear) of a nursing home in Bnei Brak??? Please look at this site that I reached also when looking that up and tell me I’m not crazy!!

Yes, I will provide a translation, but that, of course, is the problem–how to do that correctly? I’m going to use the translation that Rabbi Wolicki uses on a message that he gives about the concept, Respect for Elders as a Tenet of our Faith.

In the presence of the elderly you shall rise and you shall respect an elder; you shall fear your G-d, I am Hashem. (Vayikra 19:32)

I am just cutting to the chase, again, with his words, but I do suggest you read his whole message.

The Torah uses an unusual verb in the commandment to respect the elderly. The Hebrew words are “vehadarta pnei zaken”. “Vehadarta” does not really mean respect. In fact, the word is a verb form of the word “hadar” meaning “beauty”. The exact translation of the commandment is probably closer to “you shall find beauty in the face of an elder”. How fitting.

The natural inclination is to be impressed by youthful beauty. It is very physically appealing. The Torah is telling us that this mistaken view sees only the natural physical side of things. The essence of humanity is the soul. It is above the natural system. We are to look beyond the natural and physical. We are supposed to see the true human beauty. If we see things correctly, the result will be “vehadarta pnei zaken.”

The verse ends with the injunction to fear G-d. The connection is clear. When we say that man was created in the image of G-d we mean the soul, not the body. Proper respect for the elderly constitutes rejection of a physically centered existence and acceptance of a spiritual reality.

May we all build stronger connections to the elderly in our lives, our greatest sources of wisdom and spiritual guidance.

Amen to that, bro.


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