By Yonatan Gordon
On the one hand, we are told that “actions speak louder than words.” Then we hear that the “pen is mightier than the sword.” So which one is it? Do penned thoughts or actions matter most? The answer is that both are correct. Welcome to the wonderful new world of actionable thoughts.
We usually hear the word “disruptive” paired in tandem with technology. But while it is not yet so common to speak of disruptive journalism, according to Kabbalah, journalism more disruptive than technology. As has been observed from one of the most disruptive journalists in the world, Nate Silver, numbers and analytics play a big part. But numbers alone don’t tell a story, as Nate himself explains in his interviews.
While analytics have a well-established place in journalism, the most common instance is in the political arena. The first question then is what makes a statistics-based journalist like Nate disruptive? For one, he is accurate. But we’d like to suggest something more. That by expanding his analysis to sports, and now to a magazine of topics with the relaunch of FiveThirtEight.com, he is presenting a new landscape from which we should all begin to envision the journalism of the future.
What do I mean?
The standard approach to journalism is that there are news stories, and then the analysis is already considered an opinion piece, an Op-Ed. No matter how deep or rich the analysis, the perception is that there are these two worlds. The realm of the headline, what actually took place, and the more abstract realm of thought. But what we are now experiencing is the convergence of these two worlds; a generation when thought is beginning to become an integral part of the story itself. While Nate is one good example of the start of this convergence, this is just the tip of the iceberg, an indication of exciting times to come.
It all begins with convergence. In our case, the descent of the world of thought, the World of Creation into the World of Action. As long as thoughts exist somewhere off in the abstract distance, then all the well-written opinion pieces in the world won’t amount to something disruptive. But once thoughts start becoming viewed as part and parcel of the story, then one article or even one well-spoken word could change the entire world for the better.
As long as technology was viewed as the most disruptive thing, then it was questionable whether the initial thoughts behind the technology were also disruptive—Like the visionary who is only noticed if he transitions over to become and inventor as well. But once the public realizes that journalism itself is disruptive, something we are now beginning to experience, then this changes the rules of the game.
Welcome to the New World of Thought
In our previous articles, we’ve been discussing the descending world of thought, and how the Internet of Things is just one of many examples for this. But now is the time to transition these thoughts into action in the hopes of inspiring a generation of creative-minded people to disrupt the world with their good ideas.
Informing on the News
We mentioned that Nate prefers to offer analysis on those stories that he feels he can contribute to in some way. According to Kabbalah, appropriately enough, this mindset relates to the secret of being a disruptive journalist. To say it more strongly, when we see a story that we think we can inform upon, in a way that is uniquely different from all others, then not only should we write about it, but we have an obligation to do so. It is the very sense of obligation—not only of our own need to express our creativity, but in order to benefit others—that brings these thoughts down from the abstract into reality.
If you listen to Nate speak, you can tell he has a sense of this (although he doesn’t express it in these terms). It is the sense that since this journalist experienced some insight, that he or she has no choice but to sit and write it down.
How does obligation bring the abstract realm of thought, an OP-ED, to become part of the real-world headline itself? Usually when we speak of obligations, we think in terms of actions. A person is obligated to do mitzvot, good deeds. But good thoughts are usually not viewed like this. While we are obligated to think good thoughts, if the world of thought is to be disruptive, then thought too must be viewed as an obligation. Just as we are obligated to write or speak about headlines, we are obligated to be happy as well, and so on.
Implicit in this discussion is that if we feel that we can inform on a headline, we are also sensing that there is something new about our insight. A new insight is like a new light that we are considering shining on this story. While everyone may know about this headline, they don’t know your insight (because you are the one that had it!). This is the nature of the obligation being placed on thought. That you sense that you can add to the story, some new insight, and as a result, you also sense that by adding this light to the story, that it will also completely change the nature of the story itself.
There were some hefty semantics implemented in the previous paragraph, but what we are now saying is something that even a young child can understand. As children, we yearn to experience the miraculous or wondrous in the world. But as we grow up, somewhere along the way, limitations set in. No longer do events appear so wondrous at first. But a disruptive journalist doesn’t pay attention to these growing pains and continues to experience the world as a child does. But now with added years of experience, skill set, knowledge base, etc… the messages have a much greater ability to be articulated so that the public can readily appreciate and understand.
The disruptive journalist has a sense for showing the miraculous behind what others may consider the everyday, and as a result, has a unique obligation to shine the light of these insights to the world.
The Sweet Fragrance of Stories
We started with the thought that while technology seems to be the most disruptive, journalism is really much more disruptive. But while we compared disruptive journalism to turning on the light, since we are in the days preceding Purim and not Chanukah, our discussion is presently focused on transforming the bitter into sweet. There was some headline that appeared to be in need of some sweetening, so the disruptive journalist thought of a good spice to add to the mix. This is the way to explain the intermixing of good thoughts into reality. On the surface, the world seems can seem like a bitter place. But with the right sweet smelling spices from the writings of sincere disruptive journalists, the pleasant fragrance can begin to be smelled by all.
The reason technology is not as disruptive is because technology generally corresponds to klipat nogah in Kabbalah—neither impure nor holy. But the secret of a truly disruptive person, is to transform something that was impure into pure. Such a feat is much more difficult and hence much more disruptive.
Close to half of this article was typed just before Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh began delivering his class Thursday night in Jerusalem, and the rest was written during the intermissions and right after the class. If there is interest, a series of articles could be written based on the transcript itself. The present article was mainly based on inspirations surrounding the class.