By Yonatan Gordon
For those who don’t know, Aaron Swartz was the computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist, who took his life last year. Background material can be read on Wikipedia here or by searching the internet.
Even after I stopped TV, the one program that was hardest not to watch was Early Edition. What interested me was not the character interplay, or the cat on the door mat, but the fact that here was a person trying to do someone good with a gift. Instead of using his edition or tomorrow’s newspaper to gamble, trade stocks, etc… Gary Hobson used it to help people in need. Eventually, I realized that what I was seeking was not to be found in Early Edition either. But while I knew this fictional storyline was not the answer, even years later, I still found the concept of being able to read tomorrow’s headlines compelling.
Shortly after Aaron’s passing, I wrote several posts on my blog about Aaron and the nature of his idealism. Additionally, as a signpost to keep in mind when I think of him, I came up with the term “open source idealism.”
Without dwelling on the past, now that it has been one year since Aaron left this world, I’d like to share my own recent account of what I think it means to be an “open source idealist,” and how this all relates to Early Edition.
Tuesday night January 7th, the thought came to mind to write something about the Polar Vortex. As I generally source my articles in Kabbalah, I went to Inner.org to try and find something related to this idea of the north becoming warm, and the relative south becoming cold. Not turning up anything that made sense, just prior to giving up, I remembered an article that presented a Kabbalistic model of the oceans and continents.
I adapted the material, renamed it “A Mystical Spin on the Polar Vortex,” and sent it to JewishPress.com for publication. I made sure to reference the original page where the material was copied from, and a notation that the polar vortex material was my own addition. Even though the article was originally published six years ago, and was based on material hundreds of years old, it was well received with a healthy amount of likes and positive comments.
The story would have ended here if not for the class from my teacher, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, the following morning (after the article was already sent to the Jewish Press).
During that Wednesday morning class, he discussed the importance of having “a premonition of what will be the headlines of tomorrow’s newspaper.” He also explained that even if the story happened years ago, by retelling these “old” stories anew, in a new generation with new applications to the current events of the present day, then it can become the newest thing imaginable.
Those who are familiar with Aaron’s life know that he was living years ahead of his time. But in our search for an “open internet,” we are also beginning to open ourselves up to our own open possibilities and potentials. Aaron reminds us that there is nothing more normal in the world than to be thinking ahead of your time. We all have the ability to receive “tomorrow’s newspaper today.” Or more specifically, to have a premonition for what will be in tomorrow’s headlines. But with this gift, Aaron also taught us how to use this vision in order to better help and assist the lives of those around us.
For a moment, I felt how wonderful this was to be experiencing the “real life” version of Early Edition, by anticipating the topic of that Wednesday morning class on Tuesday night. But then I realized that this was something everyone could do with the right inspiration.