Mussar and the Blackberry upgrade

The following was written before Blackberry forgot how to make Blackberrys. The point is valid nonetheless (ed note)

I appreciate and use technology, probably a bit more than most, surely far less than many.  Every so often I realize that technology has a lesson to teach us and I try to learn it.  More often I notice the lesson, pass it on to someone else (who is usually quite pleased to hear it) and I thus fail to learn it myself.  So, at the risk of not learning this message, I’d like to share a thought about the recent Blackberry upgrade to OS6.

Some years ago, a dear friend introduced me to the Blackberry and while I didn’t become the ultimate power user, the convenience was quite clear for me.  A couple of years ago this same friend arranged for my Blackberry 8310 to be upgraded to the Blackberry 9700.  That was cute, but hardly a change that made a huge difference.  I won’t go into the benefits of the upgrade to the 9700, since that is not at all the point of this post, and since you can read about that in several million other places.  As a point of reference, though, for the uninitiated, the old Blackberry used Operating System (OS)4 and, later, OS4.5 and the new toy used OS5.

Well, along came the iphone, and its graphical interface became quite the rage.  It seemed that the iphone was even making inroads into Blackberry territory to the extent that Blackberry lovers were having to defend their beleaguered friend and RIM (the Canadian folks who make the Blackberry) seemed rather slow in providing a suitable response.  All the while, conversations revolved around the iphone.  I noticed, without taking much notice, that the iphone users were being continuously lured into purchasing a new unit.  The iphone3, the iphone4, rumors about the features in the upcoming iphone5 and prophecies about what the iphone 6 to 60 will be like.  New ideas translate into new models and new models mean obsolescence.

Against that backdrop, RIM recently upgraded my Blackberry 9700 to OS6.  I chose my words carefully there (that happens at times).  They provided the upgrade for free.  I only had to plug my Blackberry into my computer and let RIM do the rest.  There was no discussion of buying the upgrade and I had no idea that this upgrade would completely revolutionize my old Blackberry 9700.  While you can find reviews about the upgrade elsewhere, permit me to say that they put my Blackberry on steroids, added features that I could only dream about (just imagine looking up a name in your address book and seeing below all of the conversations that you have had with that person as one example) in an interface that resolves any traces of iphone envy that a Blackberry user might suffer from.  But the most amazing part of the story is that I did not have to change my unit!  I did not have to buy another Blackberry!  They somehow figured out how to make use of the existing technology from a couple of years ago and make it run like tomorrow.  Now, while I’d love to send kudos to the development team at RIM for putting tomorrow’s ideas into yesterday’s technology, I don’t have access to them.  But what I do have is a Mussar thought (did you think that I’d never get there?).  There is a powerful message that is sent whenever an upgrade requires new hardware.  It sends the message that we cannot truly change and upgrade what we are about.  Perhaps our children will be new and improved, and theirs after them, but we are old hardware and the new software of growth and change does not run on us.

And then RIM introduced this revolutionary change to existing hardware and that sends a very different metaphor.  With thought and planning our old hardware can be upgraded.  We are capable of deep change.  It cannot be overnight, and it is a fantasy to think that we can just ‘plug in’ to change and it will happen, but deep change and growth is possible and it can be done by each of us, with the hardware that we were each born with.  We need not leave the task of growth to the upgrade of future generations, we can make the changes ourselves, using the strengths and challenges which are ours we can move forward towards the Torah’s ideal.

It’s very easy for our unconscious system to claim exemptions to the arduous task of personal change.  Perhaps RIM has helped us a bit with loosening the grip of one of those exemptions, that we are hopeless in the change process since that requires a hardware upgrade.  It requires heavenly assistance, that is true, but so does everything that we set out to do.  More than anything else it requires a deep belief that we can, are called, and must succeed.

Thank you, RIM.

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