I just finished watching Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang with my family …. it was the first time that I had seen the movie since I was my daughter’s age (approximately 8 years old). Before I sat down to watch for a moment I recalled my memories of the movie. Beyond the flying car – my memories were mainly focused on the lead female character. I could not remember her name (the actress or the character), but I did remember the feelings I had for her! She may have been my first movie experience crush (it was either her or Anne Baxter playing nefertiti in The Ten Commandments). I was curious (even eager) to relive this long ago crush.
Well, Truly Scrumptous (yes, that is actually the character’s name) didn’t age too well. Technically, she probably looked better (as did the whole movie) in this blu-ray version than on whatever screen I met her first a few decades ago. In this viewing she was still blond and pretty, but wasn’t my type at all! She ran around the whole movie in what looked like a wedding dress. Truly was at first snobby and pretentious and then quickly made the turn to weepy and love struck. Yech! So much for the good old days …
I was thinking about the ‘good old days’ terms of one of the prayers we sing a few times during Elul and the Days of Awe (it is also sung at the end of the Torah service each week). ‘Hashiveinu’ the line begins … ‘Return us’ and then’ renew our days as in our beginning’ The prayer and its meaning is sometimes taken in the spirit of: ‘Oh the good old days, if it could only be like that again.’ However, as I experienced in my reunion with Trudy Scrumptous, going back the the beginning or the good old days is not always a winning formula for finding meaning.
My understanding of this returning and this renewing is much more technologically formulated. The push this time of year is not for us to go back to the ‘good old days’. It is not about lamenting that when we were kids everything was simpler or when people were more/less (choose one) _______________ (fill in the blank). It is about restoring our ‘default settings’. We know this language from using any technology today. Everyday our phones, our computers our iWhatevers provide our portal to the world wide web. In accessing that web each day they pick up viruses or unnecessary files and programs that get in the way of their efficient functioning. We restore those ‘default settings’ in an effort to clean them, even purify them – so that they can realize a more efficient and higher level of access.
Our experience is similar. In our everyday functioning our ‘hardware’ gets slowed down by our interaction with the ‘web’ around us. We need to restore our ‘default settings’ in order to realize our highest ‘efficiency’. What are human being’s ‘default settings’? In a way a very personal question, but I would assume they have to do with remembering things what is most important to us, our unique gifts and talents and what parts of this world give us joy, meaning and a sense of place.
Hearing ‘Hashiveinu’ and its call to ‘Renew’ us as in the ‘beginning’ is the same the same thing as you holding down the reset button on your phone the extra few seconds, to achieve that reboot to your device’s default settings. Not only we each need to press that internal reset button, but we each need to spend some effort being able to respond to the question: “What are your default settings?”