Digital tzitzis, or, break glass in event of emergency

Okay, I’m at once bemused and dismayed.

The folks at RustyBrick, who have developed a number of Jewish-centered smartphone apps, have developed the first Judaism-centered Google Glass app–JewGlass. (That bit’s old news–though I did just look at the site to see all the “screen captures,” which I hadn’t done before.) And I can see how it would be quite handy (if Google Glass wasn’t so, so dweeby looking) as an observant Jew to have an app like this.

Now, if that was all I had to say, I wouldn’t have posted. But that’s not how I roll because, if I liked bowling, I would roll on Shabbos, Donnie.

That there could exist an app whose existence is designed to help you remember/make sure you follow the traditional schedule of prayers, if you’re a human freedom kind of person, almost an absurd extension of the traditional idea that Jewish practice must of necessity suffuse every element of a Jew’s life. I think the problem I have with Google Glass + JewGlass is not that there’s an app that would remind someone of when, e.g., minhah and maariv prayers are coming up, but that we now have a device and an app that don’t merely remind you, but nag you, to submit.

If I want to program a reminder into my iPhone’s calendar? Great. And, I suppose, I can decide not to install JewGlass if I ever take leave of my senses and decide that the thing to do is to stick a goofy-looking computer screen over my eye. But there’s something so…pervasive? invasive?…about a computer actively, without my doing anything, pushing me to remember to davven.

But this actually masks a pretty interesting question, I think: as we put into place more automated aids, are we enabling spirituality? Or are we instead enabling practice? I’m not sure what the answer to that is; I’m just throwing it out into the ether.

Of course, as a humanistic Jew, I don’t follow the schedule. Or the liturgy. And I’m sure JewGlass doesn’t have a humanistic Jewish liturgy loaded as an option.

So, break Glass in case of emergency.