When Amir and I were in Ramaz, there were two extremes. There was conformity, mainstream, and popularity on one extreme, and on the other there was nonconformity, excessive individuality, and mindless rebelliousness. I belonged to the latter. I always thought that was the noncombine, but Amir told me that it was just as combined. Combined to a "tree outside the path". I was a conformist to nonconformity. I was merely the opposite extreme from the mainstream.
Amir, on the other hand, was truly noncombined- he straddled the line between mainstream culture, popularity, acceptability, and conformity on one end, and individuality and independent thinking on the other end. He straddled this line by exhibiting the best qualities of both. He occupied the Maimonidean Shvil Hazahav, the golden mean. He took enough from mainstream to be able to function normally and healthfully in the world and in various societies, and enough from individuality to be an individual only when there really was room for being yourself.
Here is where these two extremes manifest themselves in geography and time. On the conformist end, we have today in New York City, the subway, bureaucracy, OZ, Wall St. On the extreme rebellious end we have San Francisco in 1967. Haight Ashbury, a hippie land, a sit-down and do-nothing culture. Amir straddles the two by taking a bit of wisdom from each- on one hand he is in San Francisco, riding a bike, shunning gasoline and waste, and on the other hand, he does computers, which has become a mainstream phenomenon.
Recently I was on the computer at my parent’s house with my nephews, Simon and Ayden. Simon, 6, said "Jon, can you google Jack Sparrow, or google Pirates of the Caribbean? Yeah, download that pic!" And Ayden, 3, said "Can we go back to that website?” This illustrates how computers have entered mainstream consciousness. Computers are no longer the domain of nerds and wierdos. Computers are now the domain of normal, everyday people. The domain of good Jewish boys, for instance.
Amir said in his essay which got him accepted to the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program at Stanford Graduate School, "It is my belief that there is potential in modern computer technology to make elementary and high-school education far more engaging." Amir could straddle- he could keep one leg in the world of conformity and mainstream culture and one leg in the realm of individuality, in order to occupy the true noncombine, the true blessed world. And his goal was to bring children and to bring people into that world, that blissful fusion world of both- where you are in touch with mainstream enough to live in the world, and are also in touch with individuality enough to live in it the right way, and to be truly able to be yourself. Amir would notice my nephews and how they are already in touch with the mainstream vernacular of computers, using verbs like "google" and "download" and nouns like "pic" and "website". And Amir's aim was to channel that, and to impress upon kids the power of the realm of computers to allow for tremendous individual growth.
If I were trying to win the prize coming from Amir's Fund, if I were to try and write a scientific paper, I would write about how computers has become part of the mainstream vernacular. The web and instant message culture is widespread. I would recognize that computers and the web are as popular now as Tom Cruise. And I would write how the key is to show the children that this popular, mainstream tool they have called computers, can be utilized to enhance your life in powerful ways, and should be utilized to craft individualism.
Young kids, who come into the world in the mainstream, and who are inundated in the mainstream with computers and technology vernacular, should be taught to learn individual ways of crafting this knowledge in order to build an individual experience. A paper like that would be one which I think hits on what Amir was trying to do. He realized that he could straddle mainstream and individuality, and he wanted to teach children how to do it.
Amir wanted to teach children how to be noncombined.
Amir wished to see kids become not 1967 Haight Ashbury potheads, nor Wall Street suits- he envisioned kids growing up to go to work, sure, because work is a normal part of life, but to get there on a bicycle, because a bicycle represents the hybrid- not mainstream like a car and subway, and not excessively individualistic and useless as walking.
So when we bike, at Amir's Ride, we should realize that we are emulating Amir, and bringing him today back to life. Because a bicycle represents Amir's passion to straddle mainstream and individuality, and his passion to show kids how this is done.
Tomorrow is a sad day: half decade anniversary of 9/11. Tomorrow is a sad day because Amir is as absent as the heroes of Ground Zero. Let's make today a happy day, a day for happy memories, a day of emulating Amir, a day of giving. Today is Amir's day.