It has become a social fancy to promote narratives, i.e. stories, through “reality”-styled accounts. Both electronic and print media, plus the more instantaneous convergent media, have availed themselves of the popularity and subsequent profitability of this trend. Everything from sanitation workers’ pet shop dilemmas to rock stars’ eating disorders has been made public for the sake of commerce.
What’s more, this craze has anchored in secular as well as in spiritual media realms. Worldly soapboxes try to wow or to otherwise snazzle their readers with accounts of enemy nations’ diplomats’ hair styles, with descriptions of how much toilet paper certain athletes use while suffering from the flu, and with lists, penned and annotated by aspiring “journalists” of retirement communities’ comparative cuisines.
Whereas this version of framing actual or enacted events is found in fairly subdued forms in spiritual venues, religious broadcasts, nonetheless, are culpable for embracing this fad. Such sources have begun to feature, beyond their more typical accounts of sages’ revelations and their more expected explanations of weekly Torah readings, biographies of medial breakthroughs’ inventors, “anonymous” depictions of “actual” schoolyard bullying, and expert adjudication on present day dating problems. No human activity seems too trivial to be held in pages that also discuss Gemara.
In brief, whether a publication is sacred or secular, whether it focuses on how the rich and famous pay their taxes, or on how the most popular unions’ leaders clip their fingernails, most of the entirety of human behavior, staged, or authentic, or somewhere in-between has become fodder for shared text. There are features on dingoes dancing with neighbors’ dogs, on why or why not certain sects ought to make their holiday fruit baskets look like stadiums, and on marching bands’ preponderance of ingrown toe nails.
Worse, not only has the public continued to revere, wittingly or not, such goings on to the extent that juvenile hicks in North America, and elderly rulers in Europe enjoy, respectively, their own programs, but the public has fought, too, to star in their own reality shows. A sampling of YouTube, of Photoshare, and of other sites, where words and images come together, indicate the extent to which people desire celebrity, even if such notoriety comes from washing windshields with dexterity, cleaning litter boxes with speed, or planking.
That the world attends rigorously to such “opportunities” to gain “social status” is one problem. The other, worse, trouble is that while waiting in line, per se, to be collectively validated, individuals ignore their own most important reality shows.
The fact is that Hashem sees, hears and inscribes all of our deeds. This world is finite. The World-to-Come is not. Moment by moment, each of us is actualizing a script that is logged and then that will be used to determine our place in the cosmos. Essentially, each of us is starring in a very important reality show.
If we acted as though we were aware of the never filmless camera, of the never erring audio recorder, and of never tiring verbal reportage, we might behave better. Our personal, heavenly-presented reality shows are the only dramas that really matter.
Changing to acknowledge this verity is tough, though. Like electricity and other forms of power, Hashem’s “hands,” “eyes” and “ears” are not palpable. What we can’t sense, we tend to ignore. It’s so much easier to respond to flashy scenes offered by human media than to take action because of otherworldly constructions.
Yet, the opportunity to perform for a very important audience has been granted us, has, in fact, been placed upon us, for the duration of each of our lives. If only we could remember that from the time when we wake through the time when we sleep and then through to the time when we wake, again, we are being documented, we might have a chance to shine where our portrayal of ourselves actual has a long lasting impact.
For instance, do we begin with a formal (or informal) gratitude for existence when we wake up? Do we engage in prescribed morning rituals? Do we greet family members pleasantly? Are we careful with our spiritual and corporeal hygiene? Sadly, if a human camera person was following us, we would probably be careful about all of those aspects of our first waking hour. Knowing a celestial monitor tracks us doesn’t seem to make us mindful.
As we go through our days, do we, intentionally or otherwise, feel relieved when we are not “caught” at being less than our best? Do we pick the largest fruit from the basket, literally, or figuratively, leaving the remnants for our colleagues? Do we ignore the needs of the elderly, the pregnant, and the sick when commuting via public transportation? Do we pretend not to hear co-workers’ sighs or tears? If a sound engineer held a microphone over our head, all day, we would act better than we do now, when The Almighty details our comings and goings.
Do we walk past beggars? Do we elbow, just a little, at lunch counters? Do we hang up, curtly, when friends or loved ones ring or text us? If an ace reporter was writing up his or her observations of our choices would we act more civilly than we do now, when HaKadosh Baruchu is journaling them?
When we return home, do we present ourselves in such a way that makes our needs look as though they necessarily outweigh those of our family’s? Do we isolate ourselves from our spouses and children, claiming a right to private time based on some semblance of self-pity? Do we drink away the woes of our day? Do we drug ourselves with insidious foodstuffs? Would we take those options if we knew our actions were going to be publicized? Forever? We would be well served by caring that our actions will be revealed and unchangeable in a greater sphere.
The length of the list of and the variation of the particulars of questions about our decisions regarding our mundane behaviors is as long and as wide-ranging as is the planet’s population. To some degree, the particulars are of qualified consequence. What is of importance is that we ARE being put on record. We are being watched, listened to, and noted. We are, every minute that we are alive, starring in the most important reality show that ever existed.
Over time, the popularity of mediated “reality” shows will wane as have other media fads. Something shinier will take that style of communicating’s place. The folks who had their fifteen minutes of fame will return to painting barns, to lecturing on physics, and to belly dancing. In the greater cosmic auditorium, no matter the favor received by Earthly kinds of reportage, though, the camera keeps rolling, the tape player keeps recording and the Greatest of Documentary Makers keeps tabulating.