Christmas Eve we had dinner at a restaurant in Cherry Hill. Next to our table there was a large party of some dozen or more people of all ages, representing, no doubt, several generations of the same family. From the gray haired patriarch and matriarch down the age scale to young children. At first there was much happy chatter as might be expected. Right out of a Norman Rockwell painting of a close family on Christmas Eve. Then, while orders were being taken, out came the I-pads, the phones, and whatever other gadgetry that modern man cannot live..or even eat…without.

At the end of the table was a small girl of about six. Soon as she sat down she whipped out the device and for the entire duration of the gathering she sat transfixed with it, staring without expression the whole time. In the course of time the other youngsters were on the web, too. And slowly, the adults launched themselves into the cyber universe with their gadgets. Conversation ground to a near halt. And so, I thought, here is Christmas 2011. A dozen or more human beings pressed closely together at a happy occasion, and no one paying the least attention to any other. I wonder how Norman Rockwell would have painted this, or would he have just broken his brushes in sadness?