Loss & Disorientation

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12”x12” woven strips of paper By Jonathan Lyon October 2021

Last night I completed my newest paper cut called Loss and Disorientation.

I’m 65. I lost my grandfather who was the anchor in my life when I was 21 and I struggled for many years to recover from the devastation..

My Grandfather fought in WW1, was a Holocaust survivor and survived the Soviet Union. He came to the USA from the USSR to live with us when I was ten.

Close to the end of his life, my parents surprised him with a trip to Israel, his greatest dream. As I was married and had a newborn child, I could not travel with him, but was happy to here all his amazing stories on his return.

Grampa kept pictures of all his heros under the glass atop his dresser and kissed them each goodnight!

Then to see them in person at a WZO convention in Jerusalem. He was made an honorary representative of San Francisco’s chapter fir the trip.

He was always such a staunch Zionist and sang songs in Yiddish from the 20s, before the state was born.

So you can imagine the joy in his heart. The last 11 years of his tumultuous life were his happiest. What a way to go. I want such an end!!

In Israel, he got to meet his Israeli heroes. He kissed Golda Meir and shook the hand of Yitzhak Rabin, prayed at the Western Wall, saw relatives he hadn’t seen since the first selection at Auschwitz. And he blessed my brother and his new fiancé who flew in from Italy to announce their engagement.

After such an Aliyah, who would want to make Yeridah? I eagerly waited for his arrival back in San Francisco to regale me with his happy stories. But he passed away on the plane on the way home and instead of stories, I was given the task of preparing his funeral.

No amount of time or discussion or reintegration fully healed that wound. I still cry on Friday evenings erev Shabbat at shul.

The tears of my soul are released on Friday night.

Finally I realized that this wound was precious to me because it brought me sensitivities and wisdoms I could not have had any other way. I could empathize with others’ pain better. I learned new vocabulary to describe my experience better and with more subtle discrimination.

This ache in the center of my soul helps me remember what is precious to me. What is worth dying for. What is worth living for.

The suddenness of death is heartbreaking. I think that in our own minds we think we are meant to live forever. Otherwise why would death, which happens to each and every living organism on this planet not be perceived as just something normal and expected and matter of fact?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are brilliantly engineered to force us to confront these two aspects of ourselves (eternal and transient).

The question then becomes “How do I deal with my eternal soul within the confines of a few transient insignificant years; moments of time, those moments themselves shattered into disjointed shards?!”

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My Profile: 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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