So something quite funny happened to me yesterday when I was teaching a bunch of tweens, about 200 of them, at a school I will leave unnamed. I was doing an interactive presentation with them on the tabernacle, based upon the series of videos that we produced last year (you can find them here: http://goo.gl/IetmV6 and here: http://goo.gl/1Q3zVn).
Anyway, there’s a point in the videos where I show a bird’s-eye view of the tabernacle, looking down at the various elements within it, and ask: What does this picture remind you of?
The answer I was looking for – the answer in the video at least – is a human face. The holy arc is placed where the brain would be, and we relate to what’s inside it- the Torah- with our minds; the menorah and the table are where the eyes would be – and indeed, in order to see with your eyes, you need light (menorah) and something to look at (show bread); the incense altar is in the center where the nose would be; and finally, the large altar with the ramp, where the offerings are consumed, is where the mouth would be.
All in all, it looks uncannily like a face. Or so I thought…
I stopped the video right before the answer is revealed, and pose the question to the group: What does this look like to you? It’s a bit of a Rorschach test. They had no idea. I thought I’d give them a of a hint to make it easier: “Thing broadly. It’s the most familiar thing in the world.”
It occurred to me as I said this, that scientists assert that the human face is indeed the most familiar thing in the world to us. It’s the one thing that infants are programmed from the womb to recognize. A newborn child recognizes nothing else but a human face – and will smile back at a face that’s smiling at it. There’s an instant bond at face-to-face communication. Faces are the most familiar things in the world to us.
After a brief pause and pondering, one girl raised her hand excitedly. She stood up and began waving her arm around. Thinking this is it- this girl has got the right answer- I called on her.
“It looks like a phone,” she says breathlessly. “It looks like an iPhone”.
The most familiar thing in the world to this girl was an iPhone.
As someone who posts most of his content via technology, I am certainly not immune to this phenomenon. But this exchange made me stop and think about what the consequences might be for the younger generation.
I would love to hear your thoughts.