ReDedicated: Chanukah and Culture of Infinite Browsing

Most of us have had this experience: browsing through countless options online, unable to commit to making a choice—and losing so much time skimming reviews and considering trailers that it’s too late to watch anything at all. In his book Dedicated Pete Davis argues that this is the defining characteristic of the moment: keeping our options open. We are stuck in “Infinite Browsing Mode”—swiping through endless dating profiles without committing to a single partner, jumping from place to place searching for the next big thing, and refusing to make any decision that might close us off from an even better choice we imagine is just around the corner. This culture of restlessness and indecision, Davis argues, is causing tension in the lives of young people today: We want to keep our options open, and yet we yearn for the purpose, community, and depth that can only come from making deep commitments.

In Dedicated, Davis examines this quagmire, as well as the counterculture of committers who have made it to the other side. He shares what we can learn from the “long-haul heroes” who courageously commit themselves to particular places, professions, and causes—who relinquish the false freedom of an open future in exchange for the deep fulfillment of true dedication. Weaving together examples from history, personal stories, and applied psychology, Davis’s “insightful without being preachy…guide to commitment should be on everyone’s reading list”

While there are many elements of his book that are interesting to me personally and professionally, I am writing about it today in that this notion of being dedicated is central to the holiday of Chanukah. At the most basic level we commemorate the  Hashmonaim defeating the Greeks and reclaiming the Temple. According to the Rabbis after these Maccabees beat their enemy and rededicated the Temple they found one cruse of pure oil for the Menorah. This oil was enough to last for one day, but it lasted for eight days, which was enough time for them to produce more pure oil. To the Maccabees this miracle was proof that God approved and sanctioned their military efforts. It seems that at its core Chanukah is a victory of their and now our dedication to a common cause.

But if we explore it further would we say that Chanukah was between the Greeks and Jews or between the Hellenized Jews and religious zealots? Many believe that this was truly a civil war. How might the celebration of Chanukah help us rethink reconciliation post civil war?

In our own context we must all acknowledge that there are elements of our lives in which we are dedicated long-haul heroes like the Maccabees and others that we are infinite Brows like the Hellenized Jews. How do we make peace with ourselves, our communities, and our civilization?

I believe there is incredible depth to his observation about this generation as it pertains to one generations fear that the new generation is “anti-Zionist”. Or a younger generation’s anger that we have lost our moral compass. The two generations have pitted themselves against each other seeing themselves as the true Maccabees dedicated to the truth and the others generation missing the point. In Davis’s critique of the Infinite Browsing Mode he discussed three fears: 1) fear of regret 2) fear of association 3) fear of missing out. If we do not deals with these fears we will never get anywhere. This year for Chanukah I rededicate myself to understanding these fears.

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