Twilight of the idols

(By Abe Novick)

The fractured media landscape is the most profound manifestation of a universe without a center rendering it no longer objectively true.

I spout this aphorism, as two seemingly unrelated articles crossed my path on the same day. Today, religious leaders, teachers and parents have to contend with this phenomenon because Judaism’s idea of one, central G-d, controlling the permanence, constancy and teleology of everything will again come into question because of it.


The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, railed against The American Humanist Society, for an ad campaign they’re running challenging Biblical morality claiming, “secular humanist values are consistent with mainstream America and that fundamentalist religion has no right to claim the moral high ground.” Jacoby insists without G-d, there is no difference between good and evil.  In essence, without a Creator there is no one moral compass.


That message aligns with today’s medium.  


Young people today who quest for truth, yet who hear the world through their iPod, see it on a flat screen TV and experience it on their Facebook page, are up against a daunting maze. Finding and making contact simply and directly with G-d amongst so many chaotic obstructions is like the obstacle course on TV’s American Gladiator.


Notwithstanding the media, aesthetically there was a time when the universe was as ordered and as syncopated as the music of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, aligned with a Newtonian universe in harmony. We knew, or thought we knew, where the center was.


Correspondingly and scrolling faster than an Acela with one click I went from Boston to Washington and opened Ted Kopell’s own take in The Washington Post, where he sorrowfully eulogized the once sacred “fact” as the nugget of all that was good and right in the world. “We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O''Reilly…” 


There was a time not so long ago he opines, when America gathered before an elderly announcer who came onto the electronic alter of popular culture and said, “And that’s the way it is.” Walter Cronkite, once the most trusted man in America and his CBS Evening News was the source of objectivity in the world.  Today, that notion has given way to, “It’s so if you tweet it so.”


Like an enlightened guillotine, opinion has severed the head of fact.  No longer a monarchical social structure, the peasants have revolted and stormed the newsroom and overthrown the crowned source – objective truth.  


As I held both windows open, it was Kopell’s use of the word, “universe” that was the glue pasting these two old city papers together for me.  


Through it, I gazed at the future. We see so much of the world today dawning through the lens of media that its fractured form informs our perception of, well, everything.  


Today, like so many of Terah’s idols, there’s a website for whatever facts you choose. There are as many blogs as stars and the most popular television program to have been # 1 for an unprecedented six consecutive seasons this decade ironically is, American Idol.


For a young person born into the world, what are they to make of it when we tell them there is only one center, one truth - one Adonai? How does that fundamental tenet align with the multitude of facts and opinions swirling in their Wi-Fi world?

Perhaps the only way to help them, is for them to gain a more universal, far-reaching perspective, beyond the temporal lens - indeed to try and get closer to the one voice, one entity and the one being that is constantly above us all.