I'll readily admit that the age of twenty is a somewhat strange, or at the least unexpected, age to celebrate a bar mitzvah, but considerably older adults have found that at some point in their lives this is a rite of passage which they feel they should undergo, and I see no reason that the Boidem, at least metaphorically, can't experience one as well. Assuming that there actually is a proper time to acknowledge a bar mitzvah, I can imagine a number of reasons for not getting around to it at the culturally conventional time. Perhaps at the "proper" age a ceremony wasn't possible, or maybe at that age the celebrant didn't feel mature enough. It may simply be that at the "proper" time this particular rite of passage wasn't meaningful to them. For whatever reasons for the delay, adult bnei mitzvah have become quite common, so belated timing really shouldn't deny the Boidem the opportunity to celebrate one now. And it's not only humans who celebrate this rite of passage – though it's not exactly with pride that I acknowledge that dogs (or their owners) have been known to mark their arrival at adulthood, or something similar, with canine oriented bar mitzvah-like ceremonies. Organizations have also acknowledged their bar mitzvah year, and that being the case I see no reason why an online column can't do the same thing.
I'll forego an examination of the question of whether a web site is more similar to an organization than to a dog. If I've already decided to acknowledge this rite of passage, however, it does make sense to examine which of the formal bar mitzvah ceremonials have meaning in the context of the Boidem, and which don't. There won't, for instance, be a wine and cake reception. I will, however, try my hand at a bit of a drasha on what I've determined is the Boidem's parasha. And perhaps understandably the traditional "reaching adulthood" speech, or at least a written examination of what "reaching adulthood" for the Boidem might mean, takes up the bulk of this column.
I can't claim that today I am "a man", or that the Boidem has reached adulthood. I've made use of an earlier opportunity to reflect on that. Having been around for many years (which in internet terms might be considered generations) it might already be correct to view the Boidem as a grown up web site. But grown up in years doesn't necessarily denote grown-up in behavior. In general I have my doubts about whether thirteen is really an age at which someone can be considered a responsible member of his or her community, but a serious examination of that issue would take me even farther off-topic. This particular celebration coincides with the accepted bar mitzvah age, not with any particular characteristics of reaching adulthood. Even so, the question of what reaching "adulthood" might mean for the Boidem most definitely concerns me. Does being an adult demand turning one's back on childhood? A very different tradition from the one that a bar mitzvah celebration derives from tell us:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.I can understand that process. To a large extent it seems inevitable. But, perhaps as homage to our evolutionary development, I purposefully resist it. Throughout its more on than off run the Boidem has purposely tried to take a playful look at serious topics. While acknowledging that digitality is having a profound effect on our lives, it has also attempted to peer into less viewed corners, hoping to perhaps catch some of these profound effects with their pants down. The Boidem has allowed itself the privilege of playing, evening toying, with the internet, or at least with many of its inflated, and sometimes even pretentious, claims.
We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.Does growing-up demand that I reject that swagger? I'd hope not. Barlow himself still stands by much of what he wrote. But it's not the adolescent zealotry that twenty years down the line I find problematic. Or more to the point, it's not me who has rejected that zealotry, but the internet itself. It's the internet that has grown up, and I find that I liked it more when it was younger. It (there's that "it" again) has exchanged a juvenile "all your base are belong to us" zealotry, a zealotry that more than it threatens seems to wink at us and hint that it really shouldn't be taken seriously, for a grown-up "all your data belongs to us" zealotry that instead hints that any resistance to its god of profit is futile. Today's internet seems to have rejected the playfulness that once characterized it. Today's shapers of the internet aren't Pinchas. I'm sure that they reject the idea that certain online actions (or resistance to the internet) should be punishable by death. And yet, it's hard not to feel that they act out of an assumption of privilege, as though they are chosen, and thus can rightfully dictate - if not who shall live and who shall die, then at least how "their" tools can or should be used. The bar mitzvah Boidem looks out upon the grown-up internet, and wishes that it would have stayed young.
Return to Luftmentsh