I framed this close in for a claustrophobic feeling. After several days cramped in a cattle car without food, water, privy, or privacy; after snarling dogs and shouting guards; after a humiliating selection and a dismissive wave off to one side, the mother sees massive amounts of smoke rising from chimneys as greasy ash alights on her clothes. An unfamiliar stench assaults the senses. She begins to realize that the rumors are true and begins to realize where they are heading. Yet, at this point, she is too numb and weak to act and the guards with their threatening dogs are there to keep them quietly compliant and moving through fear. The child clings to mother, seeking comfort…
What constitutes freedom at this point, when one’s options are so limited? Is it the choice to comfort the child as best as one can? To cause as much disruption as possible? to seek a way to survive despite all odds? Seems like any of these are valid. Who am I to judge?
My own aunt was sent toward the gas chambers. She hopped onto a horse-drawn wagon going the other way and hopped off when she found my mother and grandmother walking off to be shorn and tattooed. They berated her, not following “Dr.” Mengele’s orders, not yet realizing that by disobeying, she saved her own life.
The Gemara says that all of our constructs and paradigms exist as a result of suppressing information. From chaos, the sum potential of all that is possible - physicists call it white noise; statisticians call it raw data - we must push away that which is unwanted. We are left to work with our visions and patterns of reality. The big question is, how well do those visions match up to what reality actually is in all its inter-related complexity and detail.
On Yom Kippur, we come face to face with the reality that "The hidden things belong to HaShem our God, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, that we might fulfill all the words of this Torah." (Deuteronomy 29:28). God's ultimate and uncompromising reality must hold us accountable even for paradigms we are NOT aware of! Many refer to this as "The law of unintended consequences."
This is why what I hold dear is not answers, but an endless path of growing awareness that attempts to come closer and closer to reality as it really is - not the "reality" that is just a projection of some inner solipsistic construction within my brain. The questions- not the answers - lead me on that path. I have become deeply committed to a life long journey of learning, growth, change, love, discernment, service, play, commitment, questioning, and valuing disagreement. At my core is the notion that without self-doubt and without valuing difference and differing opinions, one cannot develop a fulfilling and meaningful life.
My art starts as a white sheet of whole paper, which represents chaos - all the possible pictures that one could create on it - onto which I impose order. Simultaneously destructive and defining, my paper-cutting adds meaning to the paper. Cutting pieces out is a creative process that graphically reveals before me my deeper paradigms so that I can scrutinize them - so that I can better understand the limits and characteristics of the space in which those paradigms work and gain insight as to where they are no longer valid. But it is not just a discovery of my internal landscapes. It is a process of becoming aware of myself within relationship and covenant. It is my simultaneous love and awe of and participation in the splendor of God's continued creation. It is my Avoda.
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