By: Jonathan Lyon
Our neighbor Retired Colonel Vernon Gilbert ran the ROTC at St. Ignatius HS in San Francisco. And he was an officer at the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Dachau where my grandfather David Hollender was incarcerated at that time. It was amazing standing there in the front yard as Grampa gardened and he walked by and they struck up a conversation – with Dad translating – and this fact unfolded: Liberator and Liberated.
Behind it: The memory of the sight of Dachau and the realization of the vastness of its horrors; the memory of American soldiers entering the camp after the scattering of the German SS.
Tears coming to both their eyes… Liberator and Liberated…
And then they hugged with a shared bond that few could understand. The poignancy and immensity of both moments tingled in the air and the day was suddenly brighter, because we were all watching through tears.
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.