Your Record is Now Permanent

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Footprint in the sand

Photo by manuel cazzaniga on Fotopedia

The death of Whitney Houston is a very sad event. From scenes of her singing in a gospel choir as a teen to recent television interviews-so much of her life has been laid bare in public. There is an incredible amount about her that is permanently available to the world.

This intense week of coverage made me reconsider a phrase from the Rosh ha-Shanah Musaf prayer: “Under Your gaze, all hidden things come to light…For nothing is forgotten before the throne of Your glory, and nothing is hidden from Your eyes” (Musaf Amidah, Koren Sacks Rosh ha-Shanah Mahzor). This is what we say about God, but now we, too, have the technology to make so much of our lives available to the public for anyone to view.

A recent, thought-provoking blog post on Fast Company entitled, Who Owns Your Personal History, drove this point home. Blogger John Villasenor noted that “[This is a]…subtle aspect to the inexorable growth of digital archives that store not only the worst things we have done, but everything we have done. To the extent that the past helps define us, it does so not only in terms of our greatest public triumphs and failures, but also through the mundane actions and daily experiences that in the aggregate can be far more important.  In earlier times, those actions and experiences comprised a personal history accessible only to a small circle of people, and of which we were the main custodians. Of all the changes in the digital age, the automatic creation of exhaustive digital personal histories that lie only partially within our oversight may be among the most important in the long run.”

We no longer own our past. This is a sobering thought on so many levels, and one that leaders need to consider carefully as they ponder the choices they must make.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

My new book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, is now available for purchase from The Alban Institute.

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