In May I visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv. Our guide told us enthusiastically that Israel’s pioneers in high tech innovation were waiting to meet us in the next room. Automated doors opened and we were ushered into a maze of holograms. Each screen had a tech entrepreneur or innovator on the screen that was able to “answer your questions in a unique and advanced digital experience.”Remembering Itay Pincas’ hologram, I’m reminded of another hologram – that of Pinchas Gutter. Pinchas is an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor. Recently, he recorded 25 hours of footage of sharing his story about surviving the Holocaust so that New Dimensions in Testimony could create a hologram of him telling his experiences and responding to almost every imaginable question from a first time hearer of it.
In light of the pandemic demanding we don’t physically interact with one another, I was particularly startled by this quotation I came across by Martin Buber from his book I and Thou. He says, “All real living is meeting.”
What does it mean ‘to meet’?
What kind of living is not meeting?
Another passage that comes to mind is from Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition in which she says:
The public realm, as the common world, gathers us together and yet prevents our falling over each other, so to speak. What makes mass society so difficult to bear is not the number of people involved, or at least not primarily, but the fact that the world between them has lost its power to gather them together, to relate and to separate them. The weirdness of this situation resembles a spiritualistic seance where a number of people gathered around a table might suddenly, through some magic trick, see the table vanish from their midst, so that two persons sitting opposite each other were no longer separated but also would be entirely unrelated to each other by anything tangible.
How we considered the extent to which the power to gather, relate, and separate persons matters to our common life?
Today I’m thinking about how there really is no substitute for me holding Pinchas’ hand and walking with him down the road of the former concentration camp, tragically made with pulverized tombstones, as he tearfully and courageously shares his story with my group on a particular day (May 21, 2010) that affects us forever and yet is never to be repeated in exactly the same way again.
That’s what makes it precious. And that’s what makes it most real.