Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Texting God

"Text God," Maya blurted out the other day.

"What would you say?" I asked.

"Text God," she answered with an impish grin.

"But what message would you say to God?"

"1,2,3,4," she replied.

"What message?" I asked again. I was really curious. Not that Maya was ceding me much.

"1,1,1,1," she said. "That's God's numbers." She obviously has a firm understanding of the nature of monotheism, God's oneness.

"But you can use words to talk to God," I suggested.

"Give me a present," she said.

"Isn't that what Santa does?" I asked.


"What does Santa do?" I wondered.

"I don't know," Maya said.

"I don't either," I agreed.

Maya had the final word on this topic: "God brings out the stars."

My daughter, the budding philosopher, clearly primed to take Heschel's leap of faith into the sublime. Maybe she's already jumped. What also fascinated me was the notion of texting God. I know people leave crumpled notes to God in the cracks and crevices of Jerusalem's Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, but texting God is so 21st century.

I don't text anyone. I am not a neo-Luddite, but the idea of punching tiny buttons to send messages to someone seems silly. What's wrong with using another completely modern invention, my cell phone? Then again, talking in public or the car with a radiation-emitting device balanced between shoulder and ear is hilarious.

I know, I know, eventually I will have to join the human race and succumb to the world of texting. As Miguel inches towards being a teenager, the only mode of communication available to us as parent and child might be texting.

But, still, I resist. I am usually quite late to technological innovations or improvements. When I was a sportswriter for the college newspaper in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I wrote out all my articles in long-hand and then punched them out on a metal typewriter, a wildly ineffecient use of my time and energy.

After my editor forced me to type an article inside the newspaper's office, one the filled the entire back page of the Columbia Daily Spectator, I was hooked on the value of the typewriter, which lasted until it also went the way of the dinosaur as computers entered our world.

Now I can't imagine ever using anything but a computer and the ease it provides to create articles, blog entries, and other assorted documents. I mean, what would I ever do without cut and paste and spell-check?

Texting, I feel, is part of today's generation. I had one student two years ago tell me that she sent out (or received) 15,000 mesages in one month. AT&T informed me today that the average teenager sends out about 3500 per 30-day period. I have resisted this form of communication that I see as highly impersonal (what's wrong with cell phones or writing letters?), but I also know I am a hypocrite because I occasionally use Facebook's IM.

I also know the day is fast approaching when I am going to need to reach Miguel at school or a friend's, and texting will be the simplest way to communicate. He'll ignore my calls, but easily tap in a few words to say that he is OK, will wear his skateboard helmet, and no, is not drinking Pepsi or Coke.

Miguel, like just about everyone else under 30, is completely enamored with the technology of cell phones and iPods. He actually said, when informed that iPods and cell phones are relatively new technologies and were not part of my childhood, "How could you have lived back then? It must been really boring."

You can't miss what you never had or knew about. Hey, we had Pong.

Maya just wants to be like her big brother. She owns three or four toy Disney cellphones, and hears him and me talking about texting, or in my case fighting off Miguel's pleas for a texting plan on my phone. So her desire to text is normal.

But texting God? Where did that come from? Maybe she is onto something. Reinvent an impersonal but convenient technology by connecting to the Divine. Call it prayer for the generation[s] on the go, go, go. A possible direct line to an obviously over-worked Deity? I wonder if this kind of thing is covered by the unlimited texting package?

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