The iPhone 5 and Human Nature – A Jewish View on Why We Want More

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On September 21st, the iPhone 5 was released.  Lots and lots of people waited in line to get this newest model.  Building up to the latest release was a lot of excitement and speculation.  When would it come out?  What would the innovations be?  Was it even possible to be innovative with smartphones at this point?  The older phones (and by older, I’m talking those released in 2011) are still quite good, and now with the release of the newer phones, the older models can be purchased at a much lower cost, or even free with a contract.  So what’s the incentive to purchase the newest model?

Human nature.  The whole scenario reminds me of a saying in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 1:34): “One who has one hundred wants two hundred.”  I guess in this case, we could say “One who has an iPhone 4 wants an iPhone 5.”  It’s human nature to always want more, to always have the newest.  Even some iPhone 4S owners may feel that their phone is somehow lacking now that the newer model is out.  Their screen may seem even smaller now, and the phone just a bit slower, even though it was fine prior to the announcement.

Have you ever felt that way with a possession?  I have.  There doesn’t even have to be a newer model for some discontent to sneak in.  After a new possession is purchased, something funny happens: the item which was previously Perfect and Amazing is now, well, slightly used, and not always so great after all.  We saw that after the iPhone 5 was released, there was a rash of complaints about the dysfunctional maps.  We may want more, but when we get it, we regret it just a little bit.

This feeling of regret reminds me of another saying about human nature: “The more possessions, the more worry” (the Ethics of the Fathers 2:8).  No kidding.  Sometimes, when I get something new, I don’t even want to use it, because it might get, well, used.  Because once something gets used, the thrill of using it diminishes a bit.

I experience this with shoes.  I’ll get a new pair and it will be everything I’ve ever looked for in a shoe.  I will want to wear them all the time.  And then I get a scuff on the tippy-toe and the formerly fabulous shoes are now marred.  They are subsequently lowered from their fabulous status to mere shoes, and I feel a little twinge of sadness every time I see that scuff.  Sadness!  Over shoes.

So what are we supposed to do about this whole wanting more and then being dissatisfied with it situation?  Give up our possessions?  Forgo all materialism?  Thankfully, no.

Judaism is not a religion of asceticism.  We’re encouraged to live in this world, to enjoy the fruits it has to offer.  There’s a lot of amazing things out there, including smartphones, so enjoying them is an easy thing to do.  The thing to keep in mind is that at the end of the day, no matter how useful or exciting the newest model is, it’s just a possession.  It may be human nature to want the iPhone 5, and it may enhance my life, but owning it won’t make me truly satisfied (though if you want to get me one, I won’t complain).

by Rivki Silver
(To view the original article on Partners in Torah click – here)


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