I was glad to have worn my dark suit. Outside, it was a swampy Miami day — palm trees, apocalyptic traffic, billboards advertising breast enhancements. But inside the funeral home, everything felt appropriately muted. Even the Bible quotation on the wall seemed a silent reflection, rather than something spoken aloud. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me.”
The service began as such services do. The rabbi spoke, my two cousins delivered eulogies for their mother, and then my cousin’s wife approached the pulpit. She’s a successful editor in her forties. She wasn’t carrying any pieces of paper. She opened the cover of her iPad, slid her finger to unlock the screen, typed in her 4-digit code, and began.
Her eulogy was no less heartfelt, no less moving, than those of her husband and brother-in-law. Clearly, she wasn’t using her iPad out of disrespect or lack of preparation.
But amid the yarmulkes, the tears, and the Bible quote on the wall, her iPad struck me as strange. A discordant note, a note that didn’t go with what we were there for.
Maybe the medium, as Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, really is the message. His idea was that while we focus on content, we tend to overlook “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that a new technology introduces, however inadvertently. An iPad, for instance, doesn’t just mean movies or tweets or e-mail; it means a changed relation to each other, by drawing much of the world closer, while pushing other parts farther away.
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