Which comes first: the doing or the understanding?
That’s the issue posed by Exodus 24:7, the Israelites’ reply to Moses’ reading of the record of the Covenant, or Ten Commandments (which we learned about in last week’s portion): “All that YHVH has spoken, we will do and we will hear/understand (kol asher dibber YHVH na’aseh v’nishma).”
Taken at face value, this seems counterintuitive. How can we do something we don’t understand? But Rabbi Harold Kushner, writing in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, says “There are many things in life that we cannot appreciate before we have lived them and come to appreciate their value. We must do them first (na’aseh) and only afterward realize why (nishma).”
Meditation. Trying new experiences or cuisines. Even raising children. All of these things and more can only be understood in the doing, over time. The actual and full understanding comes afterward.
May we each merit to understand what we do, even if we’re not (at first) sure why.
Scary loud gusts brush
From the trees’ green-flowing hair
Stray twigs and branches.
“WHEN THE CENTER IS MOVING, no quiet is.
When the center is still, no chaos.
Where is the chaos when there is no center?
Where is the center when there is no motion?”
– From the Red Papyrus in O-kaze Temple, an Egyptian Zen sect nestled in the deepest shadow of Mount Fuji. Follow the Serene Sphinx signs and tell ‘em “Bob” sent you.
WHAT THE HUMANS DIDN’T REALIZE was that, for everyone else in the galaxy, it was largely considered bad form, and even bad luck, to visit planets settled by intelligent apes. (You’d think the quality of their UFO sightings would be a tip-off.)
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ELEVEN A. M.,
September the twenty-fifth –
Rain hits Sonoma.
“FOR GOD’S SAKE LET US sit upon the ground And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”
– Wm. Shakspere, Richard II
“Are you a dream, Merlin?”
“A dream, to some. A NIGHTMARE TO OTHERS.”
“Well, it’s easy if you know all the notes!”
– Moosie Weinberger, a”h, on playing the piano with her nose
“Never give up. Never surrender.”
— Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart
“Are we having fun, yet?”
– Zippy the Pinhead
“Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh! hard times come again no more.”
– Folk song
“In former dreams he had seen quaint lumbering buopoths come shyly out of that wood to drink, but now he could not glimpse any.”
– H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
“We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.”
– Wm. Shakespear, King Henry IV pt. II
LET’S MAKE THIS AN EXPLORATION of the landscapes of creativity — how does the creative experience feel to you?
Mentally, I’m all about visualization: perhaps it’s synesthesia, but even smells and sounds have a visual component for me. So I’ve always seen “the creative process” as starting with a curtain across half the universe. Every now and then, the curtain parts just enough to reveal an Idea.
It could be a series of images, even images of words. Now and then it’s a sound. But even the most abstract Idea carries a visual impression of girders and joists, ropes and scrim. Sometimes an Idea will be revealed a piece at a time, with a whole clicking into place almost audibly and palpably. If it’s long, like a story, it feels like a rope uncoiling from the other side of the curtain — a line which must not be allowed to grow slack.
Sometimes an Idea links up with something inside the rest of the universe. Other times it just sits there, gleaming, faintly pulsing, daring me to capture it in words on a screen or a sketch in a notebook. (If I don’t, it can fade within minutes.)
So let’s make this an exploration of the sense-scapes of creativity. How does the creative experience feel to you?
DESPITE ITS HELIOSHEATH-BREAKING ACCOMPLISHMENTS, or perhaps because of them, I can’t help but regret, just a little, that there’s no “NCC-1701” decal on Voyager 1.
But at least there’s Beethoven. That almost makes up for it.
“WORKERS OF THE WORLD, RELAX.”
(And for everyone else: who made your stuff? Who brought or sold it to you? Are you grateful? Then thank a worker. They seem to be an endangered species.)
SO NASA HAS JUST RELEASED a nifty web application that lets you whiz about the solar system in real time and swoop in next to planets and satellites and space probes to see what they’re doing (or at least what the programmers know that the scientists know that they’re doing). It’s called, appropriately, “Eyes On The Solar System” and if you don’t click on http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes/ RIGHT NOW and try it boy will YOU be sorry. (Between this, Google Earth and Minecraft, the inner and outer worlds should mesh any day now.)
HAD I NOT BEEN SWIFT,
He would have brought the rat in.
It’s the thought that counts.
“MY NAME IS 010180,” SAID the friendly robot. “But you can call me 0.”