All posts tagged as judaism

17 Apr

Art, Faith, and Discovery

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / April 17, 2010 / 8 Comments

I recently found this quote by Albert Camus, author of the literary classic The Stranger: "A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."

Camus’ sentiment is lovely, describing the creative process as a journey back to the feeling of aesthetic awakening. The idea reminds me of one of my favorite passages written by Jewish mystic Abraham Joshua Heschel, redefining faith:

In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal… The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the response of that moment are the forces that sustain our faith. In this sense, faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, loyalty to our response.

Every world religion describes a state of original bliss from which we’ve fallen, and each promises a path to reclaim that feeling. It seems to me that Camus and Heschel are both riffing on this theme. Camus’ trek is the pursuit of art; Heschel’s path is the practice of memory.

Science offers its own variation on this theme. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was built to crash beams of subatomic particles together at near light speeds, attempting to recreate the energy levels exhibited by our universe just after the Big Bang. At these energy levels, the four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces—may have been fused into a single, symmetric "superforce." Physicists think it was only as our universe cooled that this force’s symmetry broke, allowing the distinct forces we’ve since discovered to separate and clarify.

The symmetric state in which our universe’s forces were unified is an interesting analogue to Camus’ heart-opening images and Heschel’s "lifting of the veil". Our cosmos was newborn, energetic, and rich with potential. It’s no wonder physicists are driven to recreate the situation; the possibilities for discovery are thrilling!


Large Hadron Collider at CERN


We all have perennial experiences that shake us awake, stir us with grandeur, and change us forever. We become seekers the rest of our lives, always trying to get back to the perfection of those first revelations.

Mine was musical: "The Warmth of the Sun" by The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson’s falsetto floating above his family’s rich harmonies has influenced everything I’ve created since. I’m always trying to reproduce the lush beauty of that recording and how it made me feel, whether I’m recording music, writing prose, or designing visual art.

What was your first revelation?

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20 Mar

From Zero to Infinity

In News by poeticinterconnections / March 20, 2010 / 30 Comments

Last week I was honored and thrilled to introduce my Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process students to two stellar visual artists from Los Angeles, CA: Victor Raphael and Clayton Spada.

Generously donating their time, Victor and Clayton came to class to show and discuss their ongoing collaborative series, "From Zero to Infinity". All these artworks juxtapose spiritual and scientific images in a beautiful, resonant way. To me, they’re poetic interconnections rendered visually.

I’m an unabashed fan.

My students were also excited by the series, encouraging me to introduce you to "From Zero to Infinity". Here are a few of the artworks:



This piece is called Genesis. The scripture is from the first chapter of the Torah, detailing God’s creation of the physical world. The lines and swirls interlaced with the Hebrew text are bubble chamber tracks: images of elementary particles being created in high-speed collisions. To me, the artwork is a meditation on creation at its most fundamental, unitive level.



This piece is called Odyssey. It layers images of ancient cave paintings with equations handwritten by Albert Einstein, commenting on the evolving ways humans have communicated their conceptions about the nature of their world throughout the ages.



Finally, this piece is called Emanations. It features the Japanese Goddess Quanwon, whose energy field is thought to bring health and happiness to her worshippers. Juxtaposed is an artistic depiction of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation—the sea of energy pervading our universe, left over from the Big Bang.

"From Zero to Infinity" was on display at USC’s Doheny Memorial Library this past fall. To see more prints from the series, please visit Victor’s website and/or the USC Libraries webpage for the exhibit.

And if these artworks enchant you as they’ve enchanted me, please spread the word about them! Forward this blog post to anyone you know who might be equally captivated.

My sincere thanks to Victor Raphael and Clayton Spada for their time, their art, and their vision.

Comments, of course, welcome…

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13 Dec

God Is a Deep Fryer, and Happy Holidays!

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / December 13, 2009 / 4 Comments

This December marks my second holiday season writing Poetic Interconnections: Exploring Spirituality and Science. Looking back over 2009, it’s very clearly been a year of bounty and blossoming for me. Many of you reading this blog post were attendees at my first lectures and workshops. I met others of you during my presentation at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Rafael, CA. And some of you discovered this blog solely over the internet, querying Google with unlikely combinations of religion/science terms and finding me! All year, I’ve been honored and touched by your thoughtful participation and enthusiastic support. Thank you!

Though I study and celebrate all world religions, my own background is Jewish. So as I sit to write a holiday-themed blog post, I have Chanukah on my mind… Like many Jews, one of my primary associations with the occasion is food. For me, Chanukah isn’t so much a festival of lights as of latkes—the fried potato pancakes customary to the holiday meal. Accordingly, I offer you this quick, silly poetic interconnection between spirituality and science, in honor of Chanukah:

Many of us love latkes, but few of us realize their spiritual implications. The process of frying can be a metaphor for redemption. When we heat oil, its molecules accelerate, raising its vibrational energy. While frying, excess water and impurities from our latkes purge into the oil. The resulting cake is crisp and clean.

Imagine the heated oil as God, and a latke as you. Surrender yourself to frying, immersing yourself in a higher vibrational energy, and feel your tears and vices be absorbed and absolved. You’ll emerge from the pan purified.




Happy Holidays! Peace and blessings to you.

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15 Oct

Good, Evil, and Evolution

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / October 15, 2009 / 18 Comments

Sunday I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at an “Artist Beit Midrash” presented by Jewish Artists Initiative in Los Angeles, CA. Traditionally, a Beit Midrash is a study group in which weekly Torah readings are mined for deeper meanings. This group was unique in that it centered on a general theme instead of a chapter of scripture. That theme was the Jewish doctrine of Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRa—the good and evil inclinations in the human soul.

Are human beings fundamentally good or essentially evil? Jewish philosophy proposes we’re both, observing that we seem to possess equal potential for doing right and wrong. In classical Judaism, the Yetzer HaTov is analogous to an angel on our shoulder reminding us to obey God’s law; the Yetzer HaRa is like the devil on our other shoulder urging us to break it. Our work, classically considered, is to side with our angels.

From a more spiritual perspective, our good inclination can be thought of as a tendency toward altruism: prioritizing our community, environment, and sense of God over our immediate self-interest. Our evil inclination can be thought of as a tendency toward greed: pursuing self-gratification even at the expense of the people, ecosystems, and divine energies that surround and support us.

Spiritually speaking, our work is to accept both our good and evil inclinations—and to keep them in equilibrium. Judaism asks that we balance the self-concern necessary to honor our God-given individuality with the social, environmental, and spiritual conscience needed to love and sustain the world.

Nature asks a similar effort of all its creatures.

Evolutionary biology theorizes that those of us best suited to our natural environment survive and reproduce, passing our genes to subsequent generations. If we don’t fit well with our surroundings, we can become better adapted using two approaches: competition and cooperation. Competition requires us to become more powerful than those around us also striving for food, shelter, etc. The predator with the sharpest teeth wins; the prey with the fastest legs also wins. Cooperation requires us to become more sociable with those whom we share a habitat. Here, whoever partners best wins: bee and flower, algae and coral, etc.



It seems to me that the energy of competition is analogous to Yetzer HaRa and the energy of cooperation to Yetzer HaTov. In nature, either inclination pushed to its extreme can cause a creature to ruin itself, its community, and/or its environment. Only a dynamic balance of self-concern and care of others, rivalry and mutualism, creates an environment in which we can evolve, and keep evolving.

So… Since the 16th century, religion and science have been competing for a vital title: Truth. Many people believe these two ways of interpreting our world can’t ever be harmonized. This blog exists to point out commonality-after-commonality between spirituality and science, begging this question: After centuries of competition, isn’t it time we consider some cooperation?

Your comments welcome.

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