These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Return

Posted on April 6, 2013 by Naomi Bilmes

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From  my blog:


It’s back! It’s back! It’s back!
What’s back?

Oh, you know, that flattish device that clicks when you use it and lights up when you press a button and performs a number of menial tasks such as making writing legible and connecting an individual to the rest of the world…
Oh yes, I know what that is. A computer. I tend to use one on occasion.

Do you, now?
Almost every occasion, in fact. Come to think of it, I can’t think of an occasion when I wouldn’t use one. 

For recipes.


Laundry? how to wash your delicates.

————-conversation has been censored for inappropriate content——————

Yes, my friends, I just survived two-and-a-half days without my computer. And let me say, dear NOSPILLS, it’s good to have you back.

(You know how devices these days always require that you give them a name? I have named mine NOSPILLS, as a reminder of the fate of my last computer.)

During the past 60 hours, dealing with the assumed loss of NOSPILLS has been quite the process. I have been through all of the emotional stages of grief.
Denial: It’s not broken. It can’t be broken.
Anger: Why the hell is my computer broken??
Bargaining: If it can be fixed for $50, I’ll pay it. Or maybe $75.
Depression: I can’t live without my computer. My Facebook page is suffering, my Skype dates are flying by, the NPR arts page is getting updated and I can’t look at it…there is no reason to get out of bed this morning if I can’t check
Acceptance: I can do this. I can totally do this. I have a working phone. I have friends. I have books. I have yoga. I can totally survive.

Ahh, acceptance.

Ahh, acceptance.

And survive I did. I even resigned myself to starting to look for a new computer, and then the tech guy called me and said NOSPILLS could be fixed for 300 shekels. And I would have it back by Thursday afternoon. Boy, was I glad. Because, let’s face it – books? How long can those really amuse someone?



In all seriousness, though, it was an interesting experience to be computer-less for a few days. Unlike Shabbat and holidays, when the entire world of religious Jews abstains from computer use, for these two days, it was just me. I was surrounded by scrolling screens, glancing fingers, and ready-to-read PDFs. But they all belonged to other people.

Fortunately, my iPod Touch allowed me to read important emails and write sentence-long replies where necessary. One of my flatmates let me use his computer to check an important, um, application status. And I popped onto the desk-top at Pardes one morning to shoot off some messages and make sure Facebook wasn’t imploding without me.

So I didn’t have it too bad. But the hardest (and most ironic) aspect of the whole thing was that I couldn’t blog about it. I had never so strongly felt the need to blog – except for the present moment, when the option was forbidden. Thinking back, it was probably quite fortunate that I could not blog during my period of loss; the post would have been one whiny complaint after another. And no one wants to read that.

4But my gnawing hunger to blog on the computer I did not have was an indication of a bigger conundrum: for a few very long days, I was writer without her tools. What about pen and paper? you ask. Valid point. I made sure to carry around my “everything” notebook at all times, in case I had any brain sparks (or came across any rant-like fodder for blogging). I did, in fact, find myself filling up more notebook pages than I usually do. But it wasn’t as satisfying; I have become spoiled by the computer. Typing is faster. There is a backspace key. And I can share my thoughts with the world in one click.

This last point is somewhat troubling to me, however. Do I only feel that my writing is worthwhile if I can share it? Do I ever write just for writing’s sake, filling pages and pages that no one will ever see? I have noticed that since starting my blog, I have definitely written less in my personal diaries. Everything I write must be fit to be shared; fit to be praised; fit to provide amusement, turbulence, or hope to those who read it.

I have gotten a taste of what it is like to share my writing – and I can’t go back. I am addicted to the comments; the recognition; the critiques. I am addicted to my audience.

I am not proud of this fact. I am not proud that, aside from being a mode of reflection and creativity, my writing is also a tool for ego-creation and self-esteem elevation. In truth, in a time when graduate schools will not accept my work and other types of appreciation are even harder to find, I search for self-worth in other people and other places.

In me.

In you.

5Perhaps, someday, I will be secure enough in myself and my writing to publicly produce less often. I will sit in the sunshine for hours and hours, filling page after page with a ballpoint pen, and show no one the words that rest there. I will know that, when (not if!) I write a treasure, it will be shared in due time and it will do its work in the wondrous, wide world. It will occupy pages and pages of crisp, white paper, and no longer fill the eerie, amateur glow of a computer screen.

And now, with the screen looming in front of me and my ability to share recaptured, what do I do? Do I push the button and send my words to a place of reading, reaction and resonance? Or, in the ultimate act of humility, do I keep it to myself, letting the warmth of hours of writing fill up my heart and hands?

You already know the answer.