It’s so quiet

At this moment, I am sitting in front of my computer in my home office, and I am surrounded by silence. Admittedly, there is a hum of the fans that keep my computers from overheating. But I am alone at the moment at home, and it is very quiet.

I consider myself astonishingly lucky. I am intellectually aware of the fact that there are billions of people in this world who chronically suffer from hunger and disease, all because of human failings. We do have the technology and the physical ability to end hunger, and most of the diseases  in the developing world. But it doesn’t happen for all the reasons that most people intuitively know.

I, the other hand, got to live out my dream. I made aliyah, married and had children. And I can’t imagine a more wonderful wife and more incredible children. My children are at the stage where they are busy with their personal lives. I have a son and daughter in the Army, and my oldest is busy nonstop in her university studies. I can’t imagine that it gets better than this.

I will allow myself a short segue, as this touches on a religious chord of mine. In my life, I have also had the tremendous fortune to have completed one cycle of Daf Yomi. To be clear, my study of the Talmud was far from in-depth. By listening to a series of lectures, over a 7 1/2 year period, I can say that every concept in the Talmud passed through my ears, into some part of my brain. Despite this less than focused approach, I did learn a tremendous amount, and came to understand certain universal concepts. To be clear, what I am about to say is my interpretation of those concepts, and I can easily be challenged. But here I go.

I contend that if it was possible to reach back in time, find some of the greatest minds in Jewish history, and bring them forward to today, they would agree that we are presently living in the embodiment of their concept of Messiah’s time. I firmly believe that the great rabbis of old would qualify the daily miracles we experience as nothing short of messianic and divine. I am fully aware that there is still so much pain and suffering in this world. And it is hard to imagine this being a magical time in history, given all of the world’s woes. Nevertheless, we do have it within our power to change everything for the better.

Until very recently, if Israel did not experience enough rain over the winters, there was a very real risk of running out of water. Most people in the western world don’t know what it means to not have access to water from the tap. Israel was not far from this. Until very recently, the only available options to Israel were various forms of rationing. Of course, I do not deny the potential power of prayer. But in practice, the entire country was worried for tomorrow. Then, desalination on a scale that made the world take notice, came online. In a very short period of time, over 50% of Israel’s water was being provided by desalination.. Israel has furthered this project and has enough water now to even sell extra, to neighbors [or to give it away in a hope for peace]. It’s not just African countries that are reaching out to Israel for its water technology. Multiple states in America are suffering severe water shortages. And they too are reaching out to Israel.

For the first time in history, human beings have the power to overcome the ultimate evils in this world. The recent polio outbreak was dealt with quickly and efficiently by revaccination of the susceptible population. Done. Over. This happened so quickly and so expertly  that many people barely noticed the event, and its significance. Had Israel not undertaken mass revaccination, the polio virus could easily have spread to the rest of the world. Israel should’ve received a Nobel Prize for saving the world from a potential polio outbreak. I would argue that the rabbis of old would see such a thing as the hand of G-d speaking through the acts of His chosen people. And as everyone knows, Israel continues to astound the world with new technologies and new solutions to age-old problems. We have our own state. We have more and more Jews coming home every day. And from our tiny spot on the map, we are positively affecting the entire world. And the entire world cannot deny it.

I believe that the world we are living in, and the way we are living, is as good as it gets. That is, it’s as good as it gets until we make a better. We have the power to make the world better. And every time we do, we raise the bar on the quality of life that every person on this planet should be able to enjoy.

What will happen in 100 years or 200 years from now, when we have conquered  those things that still strike fear into people’s hearts? I imagine that it will be quiet. An average day will be one where people around the world are able to properly care for their loved ones, share time with their families, literally enjoy the fruits of their labors, and enjoy the quiet that has come from all of the technology that is being built and will continue to be built in the years to come.

There are people who fear that technology will eventually undermine our humanity. When the day comes that all humans are somehow transformed into nodes on the Internet, we will have become something very different. There are people, very intelligent people, who say that we should slow down and reconsider if it is appropriate to be creating all of the things that we are creating. I would humbly say, back to any such people, that they would have a very different attitude if they had only known hunger and disease their entire lives. I for one bless the fact that I can sit back in my quiet room yet still benefit from the amazing advances that are coming out of research labs and startups all around the world. I for one want to see more of this. Until we have overcome all of this world’s failings, I want to see as much progress and advancement in technology as possible [and beyond]. I can wait. But billions of people in this world can’t. And it won’t be a complete messianic period until everyone, and I mean everyone, benefits.

I am aware of the downsides of technology. I was just watching a short piece on TV speaking to the problem with parents being overly wrapped up in their mobile phones, when they should be spending time with their children. It is not rare by any means to see a parent with his or her child strapped to their chest, walking, staring down at their phone and reading and posting updates. Despite the physical closeness, the parents seem almost unaware of the child, and of the rocks on the street that could easily trip the parent and cause injury to the child. This is a problem.

This is one of the reasons I love Shabbat so much. Especially in this day and age, it is a day when you don’t check your Facebook account every other minute, and you don’t sit in your office on a beautiful sunny day, writing a blog. Shabbat for me is a time for me to sit and talk with my children. They also are home for most Shabbats and I get to look at them sitting around our Shabbat table, listening to their stories and experiences. What will Shabbat be like in 100 years from now? I honestly have no idea. But I do believe that the spirit of Shabbat will be maintained. Despite technology becoming integrated and internalized for most people in the world,  there still will be a special flavor on Shabbat. Even if we can’t physically dissociate ourselves from technology in 100 years from now, we will still be able to mentally and emotionally disconnect. And when we do, we will refresh our connections to our family and friends. I believe that Shabbat is timeless. And I would argue that it is more and more necessary as time goes by.

Perhaps for the first time in history, the hopes of people have a real chance of materializing. Perhaps not today and perhaps not tomorrow. But dreams will come true at a faster and faster pace. I for one cannot wait to hear the cheers of the world as we overcome its ills. And then after the cheers, we will all be able to lean back and enjoy the quiet of a far better world.

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.