Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Technology - Are We Progressing or Regressing?

Yesterday I had a meeting in the office of a special person, Rabbi Benji Levine. As one walks into his office, it is hard to know what to look at first. The family photo's, the inviting comfortable scatter cushions, the interesting items and memorabilia, the mobiles and wind chimes, or is it perhaps the wonderful old fashioned writing desk that is set up just for writing. Do you remember those days?

The offie had NO computer in it. This Rabbi has No computer and never uses it?

Is he behind the times? I wonder. Let's us compare a few points here.

Some years ago I treated a spinal cord injured 16 year old whose teachers were angry with him for refusing to use or even learn to use a computer. Yes, he had a disability but his being in a wheelchair and having limited upper limb function is not what kept him from using the computer. Of course, no-one bothered to ask him why he did not want to use a computer or to write a book of the story of his life. That is until he came for Occupational Therapy and was given and interest check list to complete.

After taking some time to listen to what was important to this strong willed young man, it became evident that he was afraid of what the growth in technology will do to society. Was he wrong? The more I see the progress in technology the more I begin to agree with this young man.

Emailing, Social Networking, Skype etc might enable families who find themselves separated by continents to have a way to stay in touch, but for the most part, people have forgotten how to communicate. They have forgotten how to pick up a pen, the nice old fashioned fountain pen and with a beautiful handwriting put pen to paper and write a letter of love and kindness and caring.

People might be able to do an act of charity with just the press of a button, or a few, but how many are really caring. More than anything, people are forgetting how to use their own creative thinking skills and instead just taking the ideas, thoughts, artwork etc of others. People are finding that a person in needed can put up an appeal for help, but instead of helping they pretend to be in need and create false scenarios, taking from those who really do need.

People have forgotten basic grammar rules. Remember the days when a new sentence or a pronoun began with a capital letter partly to show respect? Today you can receive an email with no message, no name, no subject. People expect you will just mind-read what it is that they want and provide it in an instance. Or if there is a message the basic grammar has disappeared resulting in one long sentence of lower case letters that becomes impossible to read.

Is this living? Is this the social skills we grew up with? The social skills that lead to unity and caring and health and healing?

What was amazing about Rabbi Benji Levine was, not only does he not have a computer and not have the need for one, but his listening skills are superb. He sits patiently and listens with complete focus. Do you know what he does if a cell phone rings during a meeting? Answer it and waste your time?

No, Rabbi Beji Levine learned from his grandfather, a Tzaddik that respecting a human being is one of the most important skills you can learn and take through your life. So when the cell phone rings, he excuses himself, glanses at the phone and promptly switches it off until the meeting is over. 

No question is silly or superflous to Rabbi Levine, for the needs and concerns of all human beings are important and for that, one does not need computers, email, social networking or any other technology. How do you show you care? Step into the office of Rabbi Benji Levine and learn how. It begins with listening and patience, two skills most of today's society has lost with the modern I-age generation.

So I think again of my patient and wonder who was the smart one? The teacher wanting to give him opportunities to learn and interact and express himself, or my strong willed patient who was scared that the progress of technology would lead to more problems than it is worth and therefore did not want to find a way to enable him to have access to computers. 

For healthy relationships to thrive, I think I agree with my patient. It is not computers that we need but to create an environment that is fun, welcoming and above all a readiness to listen and be patient while the other expresses their comment or question and then to make sure your words show the same level of respect.

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